Darwinius Masillae.

"MISSING LINK" FOUND: New Fossil Links Humans, Lemurs?


May 19, 2009—Meet "Ida," the small "missing link" found in Germany that’s created a big media splash and will likely continue to make waves among those who study human origins.

In a new book, documentary, and promotional Web site, paleontologist Jorn Hurum, who led the team that analyzed the 47-million-year-old fossil seen above, suggests Ida is a critical missing-0link species in primate evolution.

The fossil, he says, bridges the evolutionary split between higher primates such as monkeys, apes, and humans and their more distant relatives such as lemurs.

"This is the first link to all humans," Hurum, of the Natural History Museum in Oslo, Norway, said in a statement. Ida represents "the closest thing we can get to a direct ancestor."

Ida, properly known as Darwinius masillae, has a unique anatomy. The lemur-like skeleton features primate-like characteristics, including grasping hands, opposable thumbs, clawless digits with nails, and relatively short limbs.

"This specimen looks like a really early fossil monkey that belongs to the group that includes us," said Brian Richmond, a biological anthropologist at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., who was not involved in the study.

But there’s a big gap in the fossil record from this time period, Richmond noted. Researchers are unsure when and where the primate group that includes monkeys, apes, and humans split from the other group of primates that includes lemurs.

"[Ida] is one of the important branching points on the evolutionary tree," Richmond said, "but it’s not the only branching point."

At least one aspect of Ida is unquestionably unique: her incredible preservation, unheard of in specimens from the Eocene era, when early primates underwent a period of rapid evolution. (Explore a prehistoric time line.)

"From this time period there are very few fossils, and they tend to be an isolated tooth here or maybe a tailbone there," Richmond explained. "So you can’t say a whole lot of what that [type of fossil] represents in terms of evolutionary history or biology."

In Ida’s case, scientists were able to examine fossil evidence of fur and soft tissue and even picked through the remains of her last meal: fruits, seeds, and leaves.

What’s more, the newly described "missing link" was found in Germany’s Messel Pit. Ida’s European origins are intriguing, Richmond said, because they could suggest—contrary to common assumptions—that the continent was an important area for primate evolution.

—Brian Handwerk

Photographs courtesy PLoS ONE

10 responses to “Darwinius Masillae.

  1. Coffee With Kate

    Good morning Kenny,I hope this little message finds you well and happy. It has been a long time since my last visit but here I am now. Life is rather hectic at the moment, nicely so. Busy doing a herb course which is fun and interesting.Done any fishing lately?Warm hugs to youKate.


  2. Hello Kenny, currently traveling in California, Yosemite is so beautiful. Hope to post pictures when I return to Seattle. Interesting blog.Blessed beDeb


  3. Hello Kenny,Long time no see, I’m just making sure you are ok and have got over’Boros drop…..Hope your neuralgia hasn’t flared up again my friend..have you been out fishing recently?Take care and all the bestwoof woof !!ps. It’s started already at Newcastle…. remember it could be curtains for them!


  4. Hello dear Kenny! Yes, I’ve been MIA for a bit – doing what I cannot remember – mainly just this and that. today is the first (and only day this week) that I have nothing to do.I hope life has been treating your well. Peace


  5. Very exciting information! Glad you blogged about it, so we could learn a little more information. I find it quite fascinating. I took an Anthropology course a few years ago and enjoyed it immensley!!Take care, XX


  6. great thoughts Kenneth ! Eller hur ?


  7. Good to see you back out on the ‘blogging circuit’….. can only be a good sign :) And what an interesting blog topic. Ida’s ‘unique anatomy’ and the suggestion that this fossil may provide a missing link, filling ‘crucial gaps in our evolution’ is a concept that gives some considerable food for thought. That the non-primate Flying Lemurs may be, ‘primates closest evolutionary cousins’ was a noteworthy subject too….Without wishing to sound in any way frivolous, their resemblance to the Flying Dragon Squirrel was fascinating! Timid one ;))


  8. A little older than the brainless baboons who reckon this lump of rock "appeared" out of the magicians hat some 6000 years ago. You are as already mentioned appear to be improving. All I can say is . . . . "We are the champions "


  9. sorry, forgot to say regarding Ida…..what a fabulous discovery, but to call it / her a missing link I think is a bit premature, and possibly a bit sensationalist. however the similarities with the skeleton, and thumbs do make for interesting pondering.. who knows?I wonder how the creationist are going to take this… probably not very well,Take care Kenny, hope you catch that fish!


  10. Hi Kenny,I quite understand your reasoning regarding tut geordies and sunday, but just think of this… if Newcastle DO go down, then it’s more than likely that they will go bust next season,which means a 10 point deduction.Ashley has no plan B, basically , there will be a huge exodus of all their main players, Owen, Viduka, Smith, Martens etc, all high earners , and all wanting top level footy, and because of having no money, they wont be able to replace the players that have gone.Steve Gibson, on the other hand, will support his manager, probably Gareth Southgate, and make available cash to make sure you get promotion.Make a bid for Kevin Philips… he isn’t quite good enough for the prem,( and B’ham know that ) , but he is too good for the championship…. ok, he is getting on a bit, and you probalby wont get a full season, or 90 minutes week after week, but he scores goals at that level….AND he’s got B’ham promoted with those goals.I’m glad your Neuralgia is improving it was a shame not to meet up, good have been a laugh, maybe the season after next, when you come back up!Good luck with the fishing,you do realise though that when THE big one comes we will expecting to see photographic evidence :-)Have a good week me old mate, extra good luck for sunday,Deep peace to you too my friendHailing frequencies closed Sir!


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