May 21, 2009
If scientists have it their way, a skeleton reportedly 47 million years old will be your next of kin. Discovered in 1983 in the Messel Pit in Germany, the fossil nicknamed "Ida" was made public Tuesday, May 19, at a glitzy press conference to coincide with a new science book and a documentary. Ida is getting so such attention that even the Google Doodle was changed to celebrate the discovery.
Scientists say Ida is the most complete primate group of fossils found to date including lorises, lemurs, moneys, apes and yes, Man.
Scientists also claim the fossil proves the transition from the prosimians, like lemurs, to anthropoids, like apes and humans. Those who made the discovery say it is this “link” between the early primate animals to the evolution of humans.
"This little creature is going to show us our connection with the rest of the mammals," Sir David Attenborough, a broadcaster and naturalist, says on TheLink Web site. "Now people can say 'okay we are primates, show us the link'. The link, they would have said up to now, is missing – well, it's no longer missing."
However, the president of Answers in Genesis Ken Hamm says an alleged new "missing link" found by scientists is nothing more than an extinct primate.
"One of those reviewers said that...whether or not it's going to be a transitional form, or missing link, is a judgment for the scientific community," Ham said. "And he's quoted as saying that [issue] will be sorted out, or at least debated extensively in the community for years, once the paper is published."
Ham, however, says the fossil is similar to a modern lemur and does not resemble a human skeleton.
Until now Ida sat in a private collection. Jorn Hurum of the Natural History Museum in Oslo, Norway, who led the investigation, said that Ida was "the closest thing we can get to a direct ancestor" and described the discovery as "a dream come true.”
Some in mainstream scientific community aren’t so quick to claim this supposed long lost relative. “It’s not a missing link, it's not even a terribly close relative to monkeys, apes and humans, which is the point they're trying to make," said Chris Beard, a curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh.
A documentary about the discovery will broadcast live on the BBC and BBC One website Tuesday, May 26. The hour-long feature will air at 9:00BST. The British Broadcasting Company (BBC) said it would use 3D animations and imaging technologies to recreate Ida and the world that she would have inhabited.
“… the ape-man-like missing link that some media sources have irresponsibly implied, the real story is quite underwhelming and should in no way faze creationists,” Hamm said.
Ida’s academic name, Darwinius masillae, is reported to be 20 times older than most fossils that scientists use to support human evolution, and is 95 percent complete.
Russ Jones is co-publisher of Christian Press newspaper (ChristianPress.com) and CEO of BIG Picture Media Group, Inc., a media firm located in Newton, Kansas. He may be reached at [email protected]