The Times – Grandpa! Leave that chimp alone! Who knows what it might lead to? Science Notebook by Anjana Ahuja

I’m afraid my imagination has run riot, inspired by a story in Nature suggesting that our human ancestors interbred with chimpanzee ancestors. It’s not quite as explosive as suggesting that human beings slept with chimps, but it isn’t far off. It would mean a two-legged human ancestor possibly having carnal relations with an ancient chimp that was still on all fours, and such fumblings resulting in fertile, human-chimp hybrids.

Some palaeontologists are wide-eyed in disbelief — who can blame them? — but to others such interbreeding resolves a conundrum in the fossil record of human evolution. …

This would explain an important puzzle: Chad Man. Also known as Toumai, Chad Man was the skull of a hominid (early human ancestor) found by fossil hunters in the Sahara in 2001. He was dated as living around seven million years ago, before the supposed split between chimps and us.