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An Important Scientific Discovery

May 19, 2009

I read about this fossil today on Pharygula. Those of you who find evolution interesting may find this discovery fascinating (although if I read correctly this was discovered in the 1980s but made public only recently). 

Via BBC News (check out the videos at this link)

 

The beautifully preserved remains of a 47-million-year-old, lemur-like creature have been unveiled in the US.

The preservation is so good, it is possible to see the outline of its fur and even traces of its last meal.

The fossil, nicknamed Ida, is claimed to be a “missing link” between today’s higher primates – monkeys, apes and humans – and more distant relatives.

But some independent experts, awaiting an opportunity to see the new fossil, are sceptical of the claim. 

 

 

 

Ida was discovered in the 1980s in a fossil treasure-trove called Messel Pit, near Darmstadt in Germany. For much of the intervening period, it has been in a private collection.

The investigation of the fossil’s significance was led by Jorn Hurum of the Natural History Museum in Oslo, Norway.

He said the fossil creature was “the closest thing we can get to a direct ancestor” and described the discovery as “a dream come true”.

The female animal lived during an epoch in Earth history known as the Eocene, which was crucial for the development of early primates – and at first glance, Ida resembles a lemur.

 

For a spicier version of the story try this link

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14 Comments leave one →
  1. May 19, 2009 8:00 pm

    Hmmm…..looks like a lemur…..opposable thumbs like a lemur….

    How is this anything but a variation on the modern lemur? If anything, it’s just more of the same from the primate family.

    There’s really nothing that screams “I could be a human one day!” about this poor little guy.

    • nitwitnastik permalink*
      May 19, 2009 8:30 pm

      Kreit, thats a valid question but aren’t we all variations of one species or the other evolving over millions of years? It sounds like you still don’t believe that macro-evolution is a scientific truth or for that matter anything which evolution teaches. I don’t think there is any evidence I can provide which may make you believe in evolution.

      You can check out talkorigins.org if your are interested or maybe you can use the link on the post to post your question on Pharyngula. There are quite a few evolutionary biologists there who can answer your question.

  2. May 19, 2009 9:00 pm

    Lol, I visit Pharyngula occasionally. About the only thing I get there are some ad hominem attacks and some snide remarks. It’s not exactly filled with experts.

    About the question of macroevolution, no, I don’t really buy it. I do buy that small variations occur over time (microevolution), but I don’t really see much proof for all of those little variations adding up to a whole new kind of animal. That’s a very different matter. It will take a lot more than a fossilized lemur with opposable thumbs and a funny ankle bone to convince me otherwise.

    • nitwitnastik permalink*
      May 19, 2009 9:36 pm

      What may I ask would convince you of macroevolution…given that macro-evolution happens over many millions of years (so difficult to observe) and the fact that fossilization is a rare process and does not take place for every species that ever existed on earth?

      • May 20, 2009 8:05 am

        Well, it would take the discovery of a fossil (or more likely a series of fossils) that clearly demonstrate the common ancestry of modern animals. Everything else I have seen is interpretation of fossil evidence. Fossils we’ve seen so far are just evidence of variation within a species or examples of extinct species. In this way, microevolution is very different from macroevolution. We have proof of variation. We have no proof of changing to different kinds of animals.

        To my mind, one would have to be very skeptical of evolution given the lack of evidence. I mean, one would expect there to be good, hard evidence of evolution since it claims to be science. Honestly apply the skeptical paradigm to evolution, and you’ll find that it’s a theory filled with holes.

        • nitwitnastik permalink*
          May 20, 2009 6:37 pm

          Kreit, since we cannot discuss something that we have different definitions for. Can you please let me know what is your definition for macro-evolution and what is the difference between macro-evolution and micro-evolution and how would the evolutionary processes for these two differ?

          The reason I am asking this is bcoz many Christians use different definitions for the two and we need to first agree on the definition before we can proceed.

          To my mind, one would have to be very skeptical of evolution given the lack of evidence.

          I wish you could use that same framework for religion as well kreit. 😉

          • May 23, 2009 1:20 pm

            Broadly, macro-evolution is more the sort of evolution everyone talks about normally. Micro-evolution is more about adaptation within a species or kind. This takes places quite frequently and is directly observable. Macro-evolution, on the other hand, hasn’t ever been observed. In the Christian view, that would be because it doesn’t happen.

  3. May 19, 2009 11:54 pm

    Nitwit,

    I also didn’t understand it excitement behind that discovery, apart from the fact that one more new species VERY different from the ones already known was discovered. And why to make such a distinction as macro- and micro- evolution. Both go hand-in-hand.

    I’ve no problem accepting the concept of evolution at all. Everything about it’s known and verified through carbon dating, geological columns.

    But the most important thing, we know the biochemical (random mutations because of ionizing particles in cosmic rays) and environmental (selection of the species on the basis of frequency of survival and reproduction) bases. ‘Survival of the fittest’ is such a beautiful theory. ‘Intelligent design’ is something anyone would conclude on a cursory glance at the available evidence, whereas, survival of the fittest required astute observation with some lateral thinking 😉 I just admire Darwin. He, in my opinion, was one of the greatest minds of humanity.

    Nitwit, if you’ve time, do you mind doing a post on the best ‘ideas’ and their proponents that you’ve come across? I might also try coming up with it in a month.

    TC.

    • nitwitnastik permalink*
      May 20, 2009 5:50 am

      Ketan, I agree this is just another of the million paleontogocial finds we have had in the last century. I think it is just being hyped more because of it’s age, it near complete structure and it’s connection to humans (possibly – which I think needs further research). You may want to check out the website talkorigins.org. It’s a prretty informative website. Btw, most dating these days are not done with Carbon 14 (since it has a half life of only ~6000 years) but with almost half-a dozen other methods which are used to cross-check and validate the dates. The most common of them is Pottasium-Argon dating where a radioactive isotope of Potassium (K-40) which has a half life of about 1.25 billion years is used.

  4. May 20, 2009 7:48 am

    I thought it was really cool!

  5. May 20, 2009 11:00 am

    Thanks for that update on radioisotope dating. Haven’t read those things for a long time. XP TC.

  6. May 21, 2009 7:30 pm

    I find this discovery facinating. I will need to do more research on it over my summer vacation. It’s been a while since I’ve studied/come across evolution. It came as part of my GCSEs (known as SSEs in India) which was about 6 years ago. Forgotten a LOT of things since then. 😦
    Thanks for letting us know. 🙂

  7. May 22, 2009 2:09 am

    Interesting 🙂
    have to read more on it now:)
    thanks for sharing this

  8. gorigadhaa permalink
    May 30, 2009 6:40 am

    There was a 2 hour long special on this creature on the Discovery Channel here in the US last night. Sadly, I fell asleep before the very end. But they discovered it’s not a lemur because it doesn’t have a grooming claw, and it doesn’t have a “tooth comb” of the front bottom teeth.

    I’ll have to try to catch it on the next go to see what they concluded in the end, but they were leaning heavily towards it being a (not THE) missing link, our common ancestor with the prosimian branch.

    I wish they wouldn’t put the really long interesting things on late at night. Sigh.

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