Evolution in the News - June 2018
by Do-While Jones

New Scientists Believe in Ghosts

Now they have discovered ghost apes!

In last month’s newsletter, we told you Arun Durvasula and Sriram Sankararaman at the University of California, Los Angeles, found a ghost lineage in our human ancestry. To save you the trouble of following the link again, here it is again:

It appears the ancestors of modern Yoruba interbred with members of a distinct population, but it’s not clear what this “ghost lineage” was. It might have been a group of Homo sapiens that remained isolated from the rest of the population for thousands of years, or it may have been another hominin species altogether. 1

This month, an article in New Scientist reports the discovery of yet another ghost lineage! The subtitle of the print version of the article proclaims this “long lost relative has been hiding in bonobo DNA, finds Catherine Brahic”! Both the on-line and print versions of the article begin with this statement:

THE great ape family is about to welcome a new member. A comparison of genomes has found signs that a previously unknown species of chimpanzee once lived in the forests of central Africa. 2

This species was previously unknown because there was no fossil evidence of it. There still isn’t any physical evidence of this creature—but someone’s interpretation of DNA analysis cannot be wrong! The print headline says, “Mystery ghost ape discovered,” so it must be true!

The truth never changes—except in public school science classes. Nearly every “scientific truth” about evolution taught as fact in today’s public school science classes will be shown to be wrong in tomorrow’s public school science classes, so why bother to learn it?

Traditionally, it was thought that species were groups of organisms that would not produce “viable” offspring – ones capable of having babies – with any other group. But we now know that is not the case. Grizzly bears and polar bears, for instance, have begun mating as climate change squeezes their ranges together. Many other species have mated over the years. Genetic studies are revealing that “impossible” relations once happened with previously unknown extinct animals. 3

Climate change can be blamed for everything!

Martin Kuhlwilm at the Institute of Evolutionary Biology in Barcelona, Spain, went one step further by comparing the genomes of 59 wild chimpanzees and 10 wild bonobos. In each species, he looked for unusual DNA: fragments that could neither be explained by ancient matings with the other species, nor by random mutations.

That DNA, he reasoned, had to have another origin altogether, a ghost source. This statistical method has previously been used to identify extinct human species.

Kuhlwilm found no ghost DNA in common chimps. But “bonobos have regions that are unusually special compared to chimps”, he said at the AsiaEvo conference in China in April. On average, roughly 1 per cent of each bonobo genome came from the ghost.

This means there was once a third [unknown] species of chimpanzee living in the forests of central Africa. From his genetic data, Kuhlwilm was able to determine that it probably split from the common ancestor of chimps and bonobos 3 to 4 million years ago. 4

Or, it means the premise of evolution is wrong.

Kuhlwilm found no ghost DNA in common chimps. That’s a relief! (Just kidding. I ain’t afraid of no ghosts!)

Why is this important?

If we are lucky, the ghost DNA might teach us something about the newest member of our great ape family, such as how much it differed from chimps and bonobos. 5

What the ghost DNA really teaches you is that you don’t need to call Ghost Busters—Science Against Evolution has already done the job for you!

Ghost apes are busted!

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1 New Scientist, 7 April, “African DNA hints at mystery hominin species”, page 9, https://www.newscientist.com/article/2165308-dna-from-another-mystery-human-ancestor-lingers-in-some-people/
2 New Scientist, 2 June 2018, “Mystery ghost ape discovered”, page 4, https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg23831802-200-mystery-ghost-ape-species-found-hidden-in-bonobos-genome/
3 ibid.
4 ibid.
5 ibid.