Sunday, May 31, 2009


This week (late May 2009)there's been a great big hoopla about the find by German paleontologists that a 42 million year old quite complete fossil, nicknamed "Ida," is the missing link to the hominin line. The following posting by Chris Beard, who is curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, refutes the hype that's been going around. He says:

"What does Ida's anatomy tell us about her place on the family tree of humans
and other primates? The fact that she retains primitive features that commonly occurred among all early primates, such as simple incisors rather than a full-fledged toothcomb, indicates that Ida belongs somewhere closer to the base of the tree than living lemurs do.

But this does not necessarily make Ida a close relative of anthropoids - the group of primates that includes monkeys, apes - and humans. In order to establish that connection, Ida would have to have anthropoid-like features that evolved after anthropoids split away from lemurs and other early primates. Here, alas, Ida fails miserably.

So, Ida is not a "missing link" - at least not between anthropoids and more
primitive primates. Further study may reveal her to be a missing link between other species of Eocene adapiforms, but this hardly solidifies her status as the "eighth wonder of the world".

Instead, Ida is a remarkably complete specimen that promises to teach us a great deal about the biology of some of the earliest and least human-like of all known primates, the Eocene adapiforms. For this, we can all celebrate her discovery as a real advance for science."


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