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No. 110: Mar-Apr 1997

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Is oliver a "humanzee"?

Oliver: male, 30ish, very hairy, height 1.2 meters, weight 50 kilos, erect posture, unusual ears, offensive odor. Oscar always walks on two feet, uses a human toilet (which he flushes), can mix drinks, and enjoys a cup of coffee and a nightcap. Chimps ignore him; humans wonder what he is.

Superficially, Oscar is definitely chimp-like; but shave his head and he becomes eerily human. Although Oscar was widely exhibited in the 1970s, his fame diminished in the 1980s. But now, scientists want to count his chromosomes and find out what he really is. One suggestion is a cross between a chimpanzee and a bonobo (a "pygmy chimpanzee"). Or how about a chimp-human hybrid? There have been dark rumors of hushhush experiments in China, Italy, and the U.S.

We'll let you know what the geneticists conclude -- unless there is more "hush-hush."

(Holden, Constance; "'Mutant' Chimp Gets a Gene Check," Science, 274:727, 1996. Also: Anonymous; "Oo-be-doo, I Want to Be Like You," Fortean Times, no. 95, p. 15, February 1997.)

From Science Frontiers #110, MAR-APR 1997. 1997-2000 William R. Corliss