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May 23, 2009

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top leftIn this issue . . .

Q: Ida: the Missing Link at Last?

A: For all the headlines and proclamations, this “missing link” story includes an amazing amount of hot air.

A story we first previewed on May 16 has since rocketed to the heights of media hype as a team of scientists reveals “Ida,” the latest and greatest supposed missing link. But does Ida actually support “the evolution of early primates, and, ultimately, modern human beings,” as one news outlet reported?

Another reporter raved, “The search for a direct connection between humans and the rest of the animal kingdom has taken 200 years—but it was presented to the world today at a special news conference in New York.”

Formally identified as Darwinius masillae (in honor of Charles Darwin), the fossil originated in Germany and is purportedly 47 million years old. One scientist gave the find the nickname Ida (after his daughter).

As for a more level-headed explanation of the evolutionary excitement, the Wall Street Journal reports:

Anthropologists have long believed that humans evolved from ancient ape-like ancestors. Some 50 million years ago, two ape-like groups walked the Earth. One is known as the tarsidae, a precursor of the tarsier, a tiny, large-eyed creature that lives in Asia. Another group is known as the adapidae, a precursor of today's lemurs in Madagascar.

Based on previously limited fossil evidence, one big debate had been whether the tarsidae or adapidae group gave rise to monkeys, apes, and humans. The latest discovery bolsters the less common position that our ancient ape-like ancestor was an adapid, the believed precursor of lemurs.


Continue reading our response to the news at Ida: the Missing Link at Last? and Ida: the Real Story of this “Scientific Breakthrough”.

News to Note Quick Look

Hyping a lie: The news media has been awash this week in hype over an alleged missing link fossil nicknamed Ida. As it turns out, the fossil wasn’t fraudulent, but the hype definitely was. Read more.


Darwin’s rats: Is this “super rat” an example of evolution in action, or the result of an information-reducing mutation? Read more.


Also: the choice of life, unsolved evolutionary mysteries, look away, and don’t miss . . . . Read more.

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