Hybrids as Hopeful Monsters: Of Human and Baboon Evolution

When it comes to species, says biological anthropologist Rebecca Ackermann, “forget everything you learned in high school.”

In recent ancient DNA studies, almost “every time a new individual is sequenced from the human fossil record,” says Ackermann, “there’s some new piece of evidence for gene flow.”

Interbreeding may have been a common theme in human evolution, but it’s difficult to understand today, when ours is the only Homo species left. To better grasp our past, anthropologists like Ackermann have begun researching other animals that mate across classic biological species lines.


This is a great article.

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If interbreeding is as common as claimed… Would it confuse phylogenetic trees?

What is classified as a “common ancestor” from genetic studies could just be an event involving hybridisation?

Yes. It would cause homoplasy, the precise thing that @pnelson was arguing demonstrates common descent is false.

Hybridization is a different type of common descent. I do not understand your question.


I wasn’t referring to common descent. I was referring to what is shown as a node in the phylogenetic tree (I e as a common ancestor). It might not be one organism. But a hybridisation event.

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Not confuse, just make them more complex.

Mixing metaphors, if you zoomed in on the nodes you would find them to be reticulated. The tree remains.

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Depends on how much cross breeding happened. There are some studies on birds which point to a lot of hybridisation.
In such cases, perhaps the tree is not a useful model.

No, the tree is still useful. The nodes are reticulated.

It’s not even a metaphorical deficiency, as some trees have reticulated nodes!