Darwin validated: Missing link found?

The TED Blog is reporting: Darwin validated: Missing link found.

Today, at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, a revolutionary discovery — one that will stand as a milestone for paleontologists and evolutionists everywhere — was announced. Scientists based at the University of Oslo have discovered “Ida,” also known as Darwinius masillae, a 47-million-year-old fossil that has been proclaimed the “missing link” in connecting human skeletal structure to early mammals.

Scientists found Ida in Messel Pit, Germany and soon found out that she is about twenty times older than most fossils related to human evolution. What makes Ida so special is that despite her classification as an early prosimian (lemurs), she has certain undeniable human characteristics such as forward facing eyes and even an opposable thumb.

This is an exciting and validating day for scientists everywhere. Broadcaster and naturalist Sir David Attenborough has said: “This little creature is going to show us our connection with all the rest of the mammals.”

Head on over to The Link for pictures, video and more information about Ida and the team of researchers behind her. Also don’t miss what’s up at the open source journal PLoS One to read about the scientists’ findings.

From the picture, it does resemble a human skeleton to me — of course, I’m a computer scientist so don’t take my word for it.

Very interesting.

The Evadot team would LOVE to hear what you think about this!

7 thoughts on “Darwin validated: Missing link found?

  1. What is a “missing link?” If that means “transitional fossil” we have an embarrassment of riches in the fossil record. If that means “half-way between a monkey and a person, and until we find *that* fossil the theory of evolution is flimsy,” we aren't really curious about the truth.


  2. I think missing link in this case means “controversial statement to get attention” because in reality they admit to not having concluded much.I think either “traditional fossil” or “half-way between monkey and person” are both interesting perspectives on this particular find. I'd be interested to hear others as well.Not really endorsing any position here, just starting a discussion.


  3. I guess I would prefer a slightly more nuanced editorial slant in the reporting–Ida is the oldest, most complete primate fossil from the middle Eocene that we've ever seen. That's enough to get excited about. Let's not ruin it by pretending that it somehow validates evolution which doesn't need validating. We got from A to Z, but we're missing Q through W. It would appear that Ida falls into that Q through W range, but can we say for certain yet that she's definitively T as opposed to another letter? I don't know, but saying “Ida appears to have been alive during the time when we believe that our common ancestor would have to have been alive, and she has features that we believe the common ancestor would probably have had” is a lot different than “Ida is the missing link” (which I take to mean the end of the line that diverged into, for lack of a better term, lines that “ended” with monkeys on the left and chimps and homo sapiens on the right.)


  4. Wait a minute, wait a minute. On edit, and after some coffee, I am officially changing my tone. Calling Ida the 'missing link' is not only premature, but specious.. In fact, it's borderline BS and Mike, I think you have it exactly right: it's an attention-grabbing headline buzzword. And it worked. Our common ancestor would have come from the Pliocene, 5-8 million years ago. Ida is 47 million years old! She might be a great, great, nth-great descendant of some kind of primate, but you just can't in good conscience call her anything remotely like THE missing link. That's not scientific, it's scientistic. (And in no way am I doubting evolution, or Darwin, or science. As I said in that other place, I do not see a conflict between faith and science. What I do dislike is pseudo-scientific reporting that finds its way into our cultural lexicon so that it becomes common non-knowledge that we now have evidence of the missing link.)


  5. Well put, Jay. What worries me, though, is not that a lot of this “missing link” talk is intentionally sensational, but that so many otherwise well-informed journalists just might not know any better. Evolution is very often poorly understood by people who are perfectly capable of grasping it. I blame the Kansas board of education. ;)That said, this fossil is a fascinating find.


  6. Excellent points, and I could not agree more. I think there is far less disagreement about the topic than some small but polarizing groups might want. Exactly as you said–some people simply turn off their brains and refuse to engage the topic, often on the advice of people who should know better.Though in their paper the authors explicitly say that they are not advocating the find as a missing link, in the press releases for the forthcoming book, that term is specifically used early and often. Science meets advertising, maybe. Even the Google home page graphic!Link to the article, along with awesome pics of Ida:http://www.plosone.org/article/fetchArticle.act


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