The Link: Uncovering Our Earliest Ancestors

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Ratings: 7.53/10 from 19 users.

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The Link: Uncovering Our Earliest AncestorsMeet Ida, the small missing link found in Germany that's created a big media splash and will likely continue to make waves among those who study human origins. In this documentary paleontologist Jorn Hurum, who led the team that analyzed the 47-million-year-old fossil seen above, suggests Ida is a critical missing-link species in primate evolution.

The fossil, he says, bridges the evolutionary split between higher primates such as monkeys, apes, and humans and their more distant relatives such as lemurs. This is the first link to all humans, Hurum, of the Natural History Museum in Oslo, Norway, said in a statement. Ida represents the closest thing we can get to a direct ancestor. Ida, properly known as Darwinius masillae, has a unique anatomy. The lemur-like skeleton features primate-like characteristics, including grasping hands, opposable thumbs, clawless digits with nails, and relatively short limbs. "This specimen looks like a really early fossil monkey that belongs to the group that includes us, said Brian Richmond, a biological anthropologist at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., who was not involved in the study, published this week in the journal PLoS ONE.

But there's a big gap in the fossil record from this time period, Richmond noted. Researchers are unsure when and where the primate group that includes monkeys, apes, and humans split from the other group of primates that includes lemurs. "[Ida] is one of the important branching points on the evolutionary tree," Richmond said, "but it's not the only branching point." At least one aspect of Ida is unquestionably unique: her incredible preservation, unheard of in specimens from the Eocene era, when early primates underwent a period of rapid evolution. (Explore a prehistoric time line.) "From this time period there are very few fossils, and they tend to be an isolated tooth here or maybe a tailbone there," Richmond explained. "So you can't say a whole lot of what that [type of fossil] represents in terms of evolutionary history or biology."

In Ida's case, scientists were able to examine fossil evidence of fur and soft tissue and even picked through the remains of her last meal: fruits, seeds, and leaves. What's more, the newly described "missing link" was found in Germany's Messel Pit. Ida's European origins are intriguing, Richmond said, because they could suggest - contrary to common assumptions - that the continent was an important area for primate evolution.

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24 Comments / User Reviews

  1. Kurrrt

    Looks like a reptile. But, don't tell the Germans I said that, ok?

  2. Jack Green

    Lovely. Thanks for posting. I hope they'll put it on display like Lucy.

  3. j

    what is the ancestor of the living baboon?

  4. Nada

    Very cool documentary!

  5. john

    watch it and weep creationists.

  6. mik robins

    47 million years ago.what about the foot prints along with dinosaur footprints found in texas thats 90 million yrs. old.Monkeys come from humans.After all .Humans are the only ones capable of sodomizing monkeys Humans are the only animals that can and have cross breded different animals either for show or necessity.like the mice that are used to harvest human parts like an ear growing on the mouses back.

  7. Jack Green

    @Mik

    Sense. You make it not.

  8. Collette

    They want to conclude too fast Ida is a human ancestor and not limar. ut they mantion at the begining it is a small female, about 6 years old in human life. The teeths might not be developped completely yet or brocken. Something seems they want too much that it is a human link. I wasn't convinced. Othervise interesting to watch.

  9. Ron

    collette you were not listening. They said it could be the ancestor of primates and possibly even humans. J this could be the ancestor of the baboon as they said in my previous comment to Collette. Mik....when we find human fossils from that time period and not just subjective imprints that creationists would like to call human footprints then I may agree with you. Until then you go on faith I will ride with science.

  10. mr savage

    mik
    those foot prints have not been found to be from either dinosaurs or humans, and both infact have very standard, very common pedal structures.
    in other words those footprints could be humans and birds or dinosaurs and reptiles or neither.
    also footprints cannot be dated so there is no way of knowing how old those prints are.
    NB this doc is lacking in any real scientific evidence, and as i've found over the years, people who give these bones names are often just wishful thinkers. ever since they stated naming them, like lucy, eve, adam, ida etc... there have been no decent docs made on the subject that aren't marketed towards either christian houswives or tolkein fans. its a real shame.

  11. Ashish

    HAIL SCIENCE.

  12. Ron Evo

    Facinating docu about a creature that really looks like an
    ancestor to monkeys, apes and humans. For me there is no
    doubt about its importance.

    Like to see more like this on your site!

  13. Carl Hendershot

    LOL @ Kuuurrrrt

  14. ciph3ro

    Any comments from the church I wonder :) Didn't think so.
    Maybe they called it a blasphemy then ran away or threw something at it. lol

    They probably don't have to say anything, still I'd be curious about some official statement.

  15. Eliza Jagusiak

    i think its awesome how they could tell her rist was broken. wicked documentry

  16. Avitus Aiello

    without a doubt.......... creationist conspiracy theory..........
    some how I feel like "it" should have a
    name like "Nute"
    Please be sure to VOTE!!!!!

  17. Dan T. McKinnon

    i didnt get to watch this here but ive read a few of the comments.... and i wanna say this delicately because so many people get there bacs up,when there beliefs are challenged....and someones belief in god or lac there of is there own.....but when i think of god as some dude with a clip board,and a pen,checkin stuff off here and there making sure he got everything....i dont buy it,like alot of others......but what if our definition of god is wrong,the words we use to define god may be misleading.......i think god is a state of mind,and that state of mind cant be attained while the body is constantly in a defensive state.....survival and needing to be the best,holds us down and doesn't let us grow or enlighten ourselves.

  18. Snoik

    47 million year old fossil, that should annoy the creationists.

  19. Naomi Modae'

    well said!

  20. MikkiDean

    Not really. We already accept the premise that you evolves are just now beginning to grasp. The concept that all "kinds" of diverse life exist is falling along the way. If you want to make life on Earth, you must adhere to one set of life "stuff", that is the basis of the common descent theory. From this unique mixture we get all kinds of life. Add in environmental variables and life adapts and changes to survive. Excuse me - I guess you guys called that bandage "microevolution" not liking the term "variation". Since all life on Earth shares a common ancestor - the cook book to get life got a heck of a lot smaller in the last few years. Keep on track and soon - the trail will lead you to a creator. Give up the notion that it is a bearded Santa Claus and you get to jump ahead a century. The more I see - the more I realize the intelligence behind this life stuff we all share.

  21. lessthantolerant

    Kind of hurts the liberals premise that all life originated from Africa doesn't it.

  22. coryn

    A 'creator', indeed. And who created the 'creator'? And explain to me again why an omniscient, omnipotent, etc., etc., 'perfect being', would bring forth only creatures that must eat other creatures to survive. How could anything 'Supernatural' create anything as absurd as this world? And we humans were 'made in His image?' How is that, I am flesh and blood, I'm born, I'll die, I'm imperfect, the 'creator' is perfect, etc. and so forth, so tell me 'How am I made in His image?

  23. fiend

    What does there have to be something before the so-called "Creator"?

    Causality is a traditional human & scientific way of reasoning that is hardwired to the way we think.

    But it has been proven that there's a non-causal aspect of nature. The extreme difficulty of consolidating quantum mechanics and relativity is a classical and current problem that we have in the violation of established ways of modeling & explaining nature and phenomena (aka science).

    There doesn't have to be a before(whether you're Creationist or Evolutionist).

    How is the world also absurd? It is beautiful and so is space and its eternally extreme violence and unquantifiable bursts of energy that it quietly suffers.

    You're also asking for an explanation of the concept of "made in His image" to which you are already closed. Do you think religion is scientifically explainable? How do you scientifically explain religion? What reasoning would make it scientifically believable for you to accept the existence of Creator?

    For you and whomever answers you,it is futile and a waste of time.

  24. coryn

    You want a rethink? No, there doesn't have to be something before a Creator, that's one guess. Or, the universe has always existed, that there never was a creation.
    I have no knowledge of a 'non-causal aspect of nature. I mentioned I thought it was absurd that every creature has to eat another creature to survive. And if you believe in Creators and their Creations it seems absurd that one spends a lifetime trying to understand it all, only to die once you begin to. Populations growing exponentially while their food supply is growing only arithmetically seems absurd. Already closed means that I've thought about it and have a theory, yes. Do you think we are 'made in His Image'?
    Religion, scientifically explainable? Doubtful.... You can describe religion's objective structure and function and such. The existence of a Creator might require a personal appearance, or the earth to cease rotating, or maybe Jesus will appear, and probably more.....
    What is futile and a waste of time? Thinking?

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