Evolutionary psychologist Gordon Gallup coined the term “humanzee” which refers to a human-chimp crossbreed – a scientifically possible hybridisation which was attempted throughout the 20th century.
Gallup, who developed the famous mirror “self-recognition” test which proved primates could acknowledge their own reflection, claims his former university professor told him that a humanzee baby was born at a research facility where he used to work.
Speaking to The Sun Online, he said: “One of the most interesting cases involved an attempt which was made back in the 1920s in what was the first primate research centre established in the US in Orange Park, Florida.
“They inseminated a female chimpanzee with human semen from an undisclosed donor and claimed not only that pregnancy occurred but the pregnancy went full term and resulted in a live birth.
“But in the matter of days, or a few weeks, they began to consider the moral and ethical considerations and the infant was euthanised.”
Gallup said the professor worked at Yerkes before the research centre moved to Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia in 1930.
He added: “He told me the rumour was true. And he was a credible scientist in his own right.”
The most infamous humanzee project was conducted by Russia biologist Ilya Ivanov – also in the 1920s – who tried and failed to create a Soviet super-soldier using human sperm and female chimps.
Another reported case happened in Maoist China in 1967 where a female primate became pregnant with a human-hybrid only to die from neglect after the lab’s scientists were forced to abandon the project following the outbreak of the Cultural Revolution.
Gallup’s term humanzee became well known in the 1970s after the emergence of a creature known as Oliver – a bald chimp who walked on his hind legs.
But tests conducted on Oliver in 1996 proved once and for all that the animal had 48 chromosomes and was therefore not a human-hybrid.
Gallup said: “It was proven that Oliver was not a humanzee despite the fact that he looked very similar in terms of assuming an upright posture and having a protruding nose and all kinds of other things.”
And Gallup, who teaches biopsychology at the University at Albany in New York, insists that humans can be crossbred with all the great apes – not just chimpanzees.
He said: “All of the available evidence both fossil, paleontological and biochemical, including DNA itself, suggests that humans can also breed with gorillas and orangutans.
“Humans and all three of the great apes species are all descended from a single common ape-like ancestry.
“I’ve also coined what would be the appropriate terms to refer to human-gorilla hybrids and human-orangutan hybrids which would be a ‘hurilla’ and a ‘hurang’.”
Asked whether he would be in favour of a humanzee being brought into the world, Gallup replied: “I think it’s a fascinating question and I think it would have profound psychological and biological implications.
“But whether the cost would justify the benefit is the other question in this equation.”