Shuck and Jive

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Meet Your Great, Great, Great Aunt Ida

The big news in science is the story of Ida (Darwinius Masillae). A 47 million year old fossil is our latest celebrity. The Wall Street Journal scooped the story.
In what could prove to be a landmark discovery, a leading paleontologist said scientists have dug up the 47 million-year-old fossil of an ancient primate whose features suggest it could be the common ancestor of all later monkeys, apes and humans.
But wait. A lot of hype. According the Independent, Ida is important, but before we send her a Mother's Day card:

So is Ida the missing link?

No, she is not "the link" because there is never going to be one missing link between humans and their primate ancestors. Neither is Ida our direct ancestor. She belonged to a branch that evolved in parallel to the ancestral line of primates that eventually gave rise to humans.

Ida is an important and fascinating discovery at the roots of the primate lineage but unfortunately it could become mired in hype and exaggerated claims – such as Ida being "our earliest ancestor". She was not "the link", but simply one of many, many links in the long and complicated descent of man.

But she is awfully cute.


  1. Well, I followed the trail to read this because my daughter's name is Ida! Imagine what I found! I am definitely forwarding this to her (if I can figure out how). You see I am not yet quite evolved!

  2. a. Looks more like a lizard!

    b. Also doesn't look like my father or mother so can't be my ancestor!

  3. Oh, great.

    Just when I thought the idea of being descendant from a monkey was ridiculous, now I gotta to be descendant from a Lemur?

    I give up!


  4. Actually, you have descended from a giblet of slimy ooze.

    But don't take it personally. :)