A potential missing link for evolutionary biologists

Ida is a 47-million-year-old fossilized lemur monkey.  To paleontologists and evolutionary biologists, Ida just might be the most important fossil discovery ever made. 

At 95% complete, the tiny monkey contains features which bridge the gap between humans and the rest of the animal kingdom — including, but not limited to finger/toe nails rather than claws, an opposable big toe, and a humanly shaped talus bone in her feet. 

Researchers could prove the fossil was genuine through X-rays, knowing it is impossible to fake the inner structure of a bone.

Through radiometric dating of Messel’s volcanic rocks, they discovered Ida lived 47 million years ago in the Eocene period.

This was when tropical forests stretched right to the poles, and South America was still drifting and had yet to make contact with North America.

During that period, the first whales, horses, bats and monkeys emerged, and the early primates branched into two groups – one group lived on mainly as lemurs, and the second developed into monkeys, apes and humans.

The experts concluded Ida was not simply a lemur but a ‘lemur monkey’, displaying a mixture of both groups, and therefore putting her at the very branch of the human line.

This doesn’t appear to be a hoax, and the speculation of Ida being the holy grail “missing link” is just that. But the evidence given does indicate that the fossil, found by an amateur 25-years-ago in Franfurt, Germany, is the soundest evolutionary evidence to date. 

Ida will be on display for one day only, later this month, at London’s Natural History Musuem, before the fossil is returned for safe keeping in Oslo, Norway.

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