Scientists suggest new find is the “missing link”

  • May 20, 2009
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Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons

A remarkable fossil, believed to show a “missing link” between primates and the early mammals they evolved from, was unveiled by scientists in New York on May 19, 2009.

Scientists are calling the 47-million-year-old fossil – which is believed to be female – “Ida”. Her scientific name is Darwinius masillae, in honour of Darwin’s 200th birthday, which was celebrated on February 12, 2009.

Ida was discovered in Germany’s Messel Pit, an area that has yielded many fossils from the Eocene epoch (roughly 55-million to 33-million years ago).

The “masillae” part of the name is derived from “masilla”, an ancient name used by local monks for the Messel pit site where the early fossilised primate was found.

The fossil skeleton is 95% complete, and even individual hairs on her body and the contents of her stomach have been preserved.

This is being hailed as an amazing find that appears to fill in the gap between our evolutionary branch and that of other animals.

See the Guardian’s coverage of the find here.

One of South Africa’s own fossil treasures, a full skeleton, is still being uncovered inside the Sterkfontein Caves. “Little Foot”, an early form of Australopithecus, is between 4.1-million and 3.3-million years old, making it the oldest known hominid from the Cradle of Humankind.

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