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May 19, 2009

Purported Key Link in Evolution of Primates is Unveiled Today

Ze Germans have found what they are calling the most complete primate fossil ever. It has the science types whipped up because it has both non-human and human-like characteristics. They've named the the racoon-sized thing "Ida" and they estimate it was only nine months old when it died.

It has, among other things, opposable thumbs, similar to humans' and unlike those found on other modern mammals. It has fingernails instead of claws. And by examining the structure of its hind legs (one of which is partly missing), scientists say they can see evidence of evolutionary changes that would eventually lead to primates standing upright.

Ah, but the game's afoot (pun intended). The scientist admitted that he's played up Ida's missing linkiness for publicity's sake:

In response to a reporter's question, Hurum also agreed it would be hard to call "Ida" a direct human ancestor. But he said he was comfortable with the publicity surrounding it.

"That's part of getting science out to the public, to get attention," he said. "I don't think that's so wrong."

They also named the species Darwinius masillae. No, there's no leap to conclusions here, nuh uh.

Ida is 47 million years old. That's an order of magnitude older than the next known pre-human fossil.


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posted by Gabriel Malor at 03:54 PM

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