Skip to comments.Weak Link: Fossil Darwinius Has Its 15 Minutes (Fossil thought to be missing link apparently is not)
Posted on 07/22/2009 10:04:12 AM PDT by SeekAndFind
On May 19 the world met a most unlikely celebrity: the fossilized carcass of a housecat-size primate that lived 47 million years ago in a rain forest in what is now Germany. The specimen, a juvenile female, represents a genus and species new to science, Darwinius masillae, although the media-savvy researchers who unveiled her were quick to give her a user-friendly nickname, Ida. And in an elaborate public-relations campaign, in which the release of a Web site, a book and a documentary on the History Channel were timed to coincide with the publication of the scientific paper describing her in PLoS ONE, Idas significance was described in no uncertain terms as the missing link between us humans and our primate kin. In news reports, team members called her the eighth wonder of the world, the Holy Grail, and a Rosetta Stone.
The orchestration paid off, as Ida graced the front page of countless newspapers and made appearances on the morning (and evening) news programs. Gossip outlets, such as People and Gawker, took note of her, too. And Google incorporated her image into its logo on the main search page for a day.
But a number of outside experts have criticized these claims. Not only is Ida too old to reveal anything about the evolution of humans in particular (the earliest putative human ancestors are a mere seven million years old), but she may not even be particularly closely related to the so-called anthropoid branch of the primate family tree that includes monkeys, apes and us. Scientists have long debated the origin of the anthropoids, also known as the higher primates. The predominant view holds that a group of tarsierlike creatures known as the omomyiforms spawned the anthropoids. Some authorities, however, believe that anthropoids instead arose from a group of extinct primates called the adapiforms.
Enter Ida. University of Oslo paleontologist Jørn H. Hurum and his team classify Ida as an adapiform and contend that she also exhibits a number of anthropoidlike characteristics, such as the spatulate shape of her incisor teeth, the absence of a so-called grooming claw on her second toe, and a partially fused lower jaw. They believe that Ida could be on the line leading to anthropoids, thus linking that group and the adapiforms.
Critics concur that Ida is an adapiform, but they dispute the alleged ties to anthropoids. Robert Martin of the Field Museum in Chicago charges that some of the traits used to align Ida with the anthropoids do not in fact support such a relationship. Fusion of the lower jaw, for instance, is not present in the earliest unequivocal anthropoids, suggesting that it was not an ancestral feature of this group. Moreover, the trait has arisen independently in several lineages of mammalsincluding some lemursthrough convergent evolution. Martin further notes that Ida also lacks a defining feature of the anthropoids: a bony wall at the back of the eye socket. I am utterly convinced that Darwinius has nothing whatsoever to do with the origin of higher primates, he declares.
Adapiforms are related to the strepsirrhine group of living primates that include lemurs from Madagascar and galagos [bush babies] and lorises from Africa and Asia, insists paleontologist Richard F. Kay of Duke University. Claims by the authors to the contrary notwithstanding, he adds, they are decidedly not in the direct line leading to living monkeys, apes and humans. Kay and others believe that a primitive primate from China called Eosimias is a better candidate ancestor of anthropoids than is Darwinius.
If the detractors are right, Ida is irrelevant to the question of anthropoidand thus, humanorigins. That does not mean she is without value, though. Unlike Eosimias, which is known only from its fossilized teeth and jaws, Ida is spectacularly complete. Her entire skeleton is preserved, as well as traces of her last meal and impressions of her body contour and fur. Already Hurums team has deduced that Ida was good at running and leaping in the trees of her rain forest home, that she grew up relatively quickly, that she dined on leaves and fruits, and that she may have been nocturnal.
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RELATED STORY :
To get a glimpse of the Ida fossil, the media make monkeys of themselves
From Bloomberg to the History Channel, everybody wants a piece of the primate action.
For a living thing that died in a prehistoric soup, Ida enjoyed a thoroughly modern unveiling. It, or she as it/she was called, was brought before the world’s media with the razzmatazz normally reserved for serving presidents or misbehaving film stars.
It is perhaps churlish to complain about the hour and a half of rampant self-publicising that we had to endure before we finally got to meet it/her. After all, we have already been waiting some 47m years.
And when the climax finally arrived it was truly and astonishingly uplifting. It/she was revealed behind a glass box, her frame strikingly tiny, the size of a cat, her elongated back and slinking tail curved like a new moon.
There is something vulnerable, almost plaintive, about the way her arms are held up as if in supplication. And the ability to see the remains of food inside her stomach is simply astounding.
So there was no doubting the extraordinary power of the moment.
The bit that grated was the desperate, unseemly scramble to grab some of the action. In a display that was utterly primatal, figures as varied as the mayor of New York and the higher education minister of Norway made sure they were front and centre stage.
The most sublime image was of Michael Bloomberg standing beside Ida’s glass box, his arm around the shoulders of a school girl who was wearing a T-shirt with the TV tie-in logo: “The Link. This changes everything”. The main thing Bloomberg was presumably hoping this would change was his prospects of winning an unprecedented third term as New York mayor in upcoming elections.
Almost on a par with Bloomberg was Tora Aasland, minister for higher education in the Norwegian government, who appeared to think Ida was a wonder of Norwegian science as opposed to a wonder of pre-historic evolution. She pledged $350,000 for the project.
Beyond the politicians, the media crowd was in full voice, each individual making more high-pitched claims about the discovery than the last. Anthony Geffen who has made a film about the secret process to bring the fossil to public attention made an allusion to the moon landings.
Nancy Dubuc of the History Channel that will be showing the film said Ida “promised to change everything that we thought we understood about the origins of human life”.
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Science fiction requires a logical plot, science fact does NOT..
Reality has no agenda to prove..
There's a 'money quote'!!
So many true believers out there who have unwittingly built their careers and wourldviews on the fantasy of the Grand Theory.
When 'proof' like Ida shows up, they are vindicated and so piously confident that they Do have the correct understanding of human origins.
But when it proves to be otherwise, after a little backtracking and rationalizing, they don't re-examine their beliefs, but forge ahead looking for another proof of Macro Evolution, confident that The Proof will actually be discovered. It only makes sense if you can link your livelyhood with your faith in evolution theory, and maintain faith and solidarity with the brethern.
A "missing link" should have characteristics of at least two animals to try and claim "linkhood". It was plainly a Lemur. I didn't even get any of the so called excitement, other than they figured it to be old, An "old" cockroach is still a cockroach and an "old" monkey is still and old monkey. There are many old fossil's out there and none of them are connected to humans.
Now I'll wait for the hour long special on Discovery channel to explain their error. Maybe a few magazine covers? anything? anywhere? Other than FR of course. Millions have now been lied to, and a few thousand will have the truth. The lie will live on, as always, and when I say there is no missing link 10 years from now, some punk will say, "Wrong, you stupid backward moron!!"." Don't you watch the Discovery Channel?"
Bingo. There will be no retractions on the grand scale of the original announcements.
A former pastor of mine used to say, “A lie will be halfway around the world before the truth can get its shoes tied.”
Evolution from animals or some other science fiction..
In D. masillae the dorsal vertebral column shown on plate A is gently curved (that of plate B is fake) and the tail is only slightly curved.
This plate holds a partial skeleton viewed from the left side, embedded in a plate of polyester. Franzen  showed that some of the specimen is real, while substantial parts were faked to give an illusion of greater completeness.
People are going to have to learn that science, real science, is proven beyond a theory and is repeatable. Theory is fun, but it must not be taken as "gospel" until it is proven. Even after banning teaching anything but evolution for decades, even after "everyone" is blackballed that doesn't believe, a poll of normal people today shows a majority doesn't believe in evolution. The evolution I was taught in high school and college is in the garbage can and doesn't resemble any theory my daughter was taught just a few years ago. Science is becoming a political indoctrination rather than the pursuit of truth. I watched the hype on this monkey when it was announced on TV and NEVER even saw what the hell the hype was about. It was a monkey, it looked like a monkey, they even said it was a monkey, yet they announced with certainty that it WAS THE missing Link and had a special on Discovery within a couple of weeks. What a mess.
Evolution of animals could have happened to some extent..
But there could be different origination storys between animals and humans..
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