Fossil of Ida (Darwinius masillae)

Fossil of Ida (Darwinius masillae)

She’s back in the news, but just barely. That 47 million-years-old skeleton of what may be the earliest-known primate, Darwinius masillae (aka “Ida”), is getting some more attention — at least, in scientific circles.

As you may recall (go here, then come back), there was a lot of hype last year when Ida was revealed to the world with her being trumpeted as “clear proof of Darwin’s theory of evolution” and the “eighth wonder of the world”. Professor Jorn Hurum et al. were pushing the idea that Ida was not lemur-like enough to be a true strepsirrhine, so she had to be a proto-haplorhine, and therefore a distant “missing link” cousin of modern humans. But, in addition to turning up their noses at the sensationalism surrounding the find, critics said the claims being made about Ida’s place in the “family tree” (or, more accurately, “bush”) were questionable, at best, and the remains required further examination by additional experts.

Now, those experts have completed their study and published their own findings in the Journal of Human Evolution.

Many lines of evidence indicate that Darwinius has nothing at all to do with human evolution,” says Chris Kirk, associate professor of anthropology at The University of Texas at Austin. “Every year, scientists describe new fossils that contribute to our understanding of primate evolution. What’s amazing about Darwinius is, despite the fact that it’s nearly complete, it tells us very little that we didn’t already know from fossils of closely related species.”

As Blythe Williams, lead researcher and anthropologist at Duke University, pointed out:

There’s this enormous body of literature that has built up over the years. The Darwinius research completely ignored that body of literature.”

Those who determined last year that Ida was a haplorhine highlighted certain features she shared with monkeys, apes and humans — namely, a short snout and a deep jaw. But, Williams’ team points out that this is not uncommon, even among strepsirrhines (i.e., lemurs & lorises). In fact, Ida is missing most of the key anatomical features — e.g., a middle ear with two chambers and a plate of bone that shields the eyes from the chewing muscles — that would place her firmly in the haplorhini Suborder. Thus, says Kirk. “[Y]ou can forget about Darwinius being a close relative of humans or other anthropoids.”

I knew it all along….

  1. pastorjeffcma says:

    As Pat Benatar sang years ago, “another one bites the dust.” Surprise, Surprise–the Darwinian fossil record is as bereft as it ever was. That will not quiet the “dogmatic evangelists” though.

  2. pastorjeffcma says:

    What a terribly embarrassing faux paw. I must have been thinking “Hit Me with Your Best Shot” which would be just as appropriate. That’s what happens when a 50 year old preacher tries to be “pop culture hip.”

  3. madmax says:

    She’s a beautiful specimen even if she’s not part of our lineage, but whats up with the strange comment from pastorjeffcma, the fossil record for hominid evolution is very good indeed. Me thinks the preacher misunderstands the post by sirrahc, and me thinks sirrahc should have corrected him. This is the sort of thing that gives everyone the impression that people on the right are a bunch of creationists.

  4. pastorjeffcma says:

    madmax–I’m not sure if we have had the opportunity to speak online before, but, if not, I am pleased to make your acquaintance. I can’t tell from you comment–but if you wonder if I might be an ultra-conservative, fire-breathing, brimstone type let me set your mind at ease. If you have read any of my posts that will be obvious and I think sirrahc will attest to that.

    Now, from the origins debate perspective–I am of the perspective that whether we are talking about Darwinian evolution, Intelligent Design, or Creationism (young-earth or old-earth) they each have difficulties and none are fool-proof–they each could do with a bit more humility. I am afraid that the lack of humility all around causes a lack of humility all around (if that makes any sense).

    With that as a backdrop allow me to put some parameters on my statement. I was not saying there is no evidence in the fossil record to support evolution. I am saying it is not replete with the transitional forms that it ought to be if the fossil record were a true template. Thus the reason for such excitement whenever a new find comes along.

    I do understand the need for the “dogmatic evangelists” of evolution to act as if that is not the case, but they know it as well as anybody else. I hope that does not come across as wildly extreme and if I did misunderstand sirrahc’s post I certainly am willing to corrected with my incorrect impressions.

  5. madmax says:

    Glad to meet your acquaintance too pastorjeff. Apparently the team that released the original paper on “Ida” didn’t do the proper phylogenetic analysis. Right after their paper was released they received heavy criticism from other “evolutionary biologists” for not following the proper scientific rigour. Many say the paper shouldn’t have even got through peer review and been published. I don’t see a problem with here though with evolutionary biology, even if it turns out that Ida is not a link in our lineage, we still have a beautifully preserved 47 million year old fossil! (She looks cute as well)

    With regard to creationism and Intelligent Design, I don’t have any problem with my faith and evolutionary biology, I remember reading Augustine when I was about 13 or 14, what a man. Anyway all branches of science converge on a 4 and a half billion year old earth and theres not many areas of science that are more supported than the theory of evolution. Intelligent Design advocates like Michael Behe or Stephen Meyer fully accept the evidence for evolution and common descent, personally I’m in the Ken Miller and Francis Collins camp on this.

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