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"Missing Link Found?"

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Posted

Scientists unveil fossil of 47 million-year-old primate, Darwinius masillae

Feast your eyes on what a group of scientists call the Holy Grail of human evolution.

A team of researchers Tuesday unveiled an almost perfectly intact fossil of a 47 million-year-old primate they say represents the long-sought missing link between humans and apes.

Officially known as Darwinius masillae, the fossil of the lemur-like creature dubbed Ida shows it had opposable thumbs like humans and fingernails instead of claws.

Scientists say the cat-sized animal's hind legs offer evidence of evolutionary changes that led to primates standing upright - a breakthrough that could finally confirm Charles Darwin's theory of evolution.

"This specimen is like finding the Lost Ark for archeologists," lead scientist Jorn Hurum said at a ceremony at the American Museum of Natural History.

"It is the scientific equivalent of the Holy Grail. This fossil will probably be the one that will be pictured in all textbooks for the next 100 years."

A team of amateur fossil hunters discovered the near-perfect remains inside a mile-wide crater outside of Frankfurt in 1983.

Experts believe the pit was a volcanic caldera where scores of animals from the Eocene epoch were killed and their remains were kept remarkably well-preserved.

Though the pit has been a bountiful source of other fossils, the inexperienced archeologists didn't realize the value of their find.

Years later, the University of Oslo bought the 95%-intact fossil, and Hurum studied it in secret for two years.

His colleague, Jens Franzen, hailed the discovery as "the eighth wonder of the world."

"We're not dealing with our grand, grand, grandmother, but perhaps with our grand, grand, grand aunt," Franzen said.

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Scientists working in Africa have discovered a Stone Age skull that could be a link between the extinct Homo erectus species and modern humans.

The face and cranium of the fossil have features found in both early and modern human species. The skull is believed to be between 250,000 and 500,000 years old.

"[This skull] shows the continuity of the evolutionary record, so in that sense it is a link [between Homo erectus and modern humans]," said Scott Simpson, a paleontologist from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland, Ohio.

060327_skull_big.jpg

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I apologize for not commenting anything, but I am in a hurry:cry:

The only quick thing I can say, is that this is another brick to add in the almost complete certainty of evolution; although it must be admitted, that some people no matter how open you let the door to "truth", still slam it shut again.

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Posted

Scientists unveil fossil of 47 million-year-old primate, Darwinius masillae

Feast your eyes on what a group of scientists call the Holy Grail of human evolution.

A team of researchers Tuesday unveiled an almost perfectly intact fossil of a 47 million-year-old primate they say represents the long-sought missing link between humans and apes.

Officially known as Darwinius masillae, the fossil of the lemur-like creature dubbed Ida shows it had opposable thumbs like humans and fingernails instead of claws.

Scientists say the cat-sized animal's hind legs offer evidence of evolutionary changes that led to primates standing upright - a breakthrough that could finally confirm Charles Darwin's theory of evolution.

"This specimen is like finding the Lost Ark for archeologists," lead scientist Jorn Hurum said at a ceremony at the American Museum of Natural History.

"It is the scientific equivalent of the Holy Grail. This fossil will probably be the one that will be pictured in all textbooks for the next 100 years."

A team of amateur fossil hunters discovered the near-perfect remains inside a mile-wide crater outside of Frankfurt in 1983.

Experts believe the pit was a volcanic caldera where scores of animals from the Eocene epoch were killed and their remains were kept remarkably well-preserved.

Though the pit has been a bountiful source of other fossils, the inexperienced archeologists didn't realize the value of their find.

Years later, the University of Oslo bought the 95%-intact fossil, and Hurum studied it in secret for two years.

His colleague, Jens Franzen, hailed the discovery as "the eighth wonder of the world."

"We're not dealing with our grand, grand, grandmother, but perhaps with our grand, grand, grand aunt," Franzen said.

---------------------------------------------------------------

Scientists working in Africa have discovered a Stone Age skull that could be a link between the extinct Homo erectus species and modern humans.

The face and cranium of the fossil have features found in both early and modern human species. The skull is believed to be between 250,000 and 500,000 years old.

"[This skull] shows the continuity of the evolutionary record, so in that sense it is a link [between Homo erectus and modern humans]," said Scott Simpson, a paleontologist from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland, Ohio.

060327_skull_big.jpg

-----------------------------------------------------------------

I apologize for not commenting anything, but I am in a hurry:cry:

The only quick thing I can say, is that this is another brick to add in the almost complete certainty of evolution; although it must be admitted, that some people no matter how open you let the door to "truth", still slam it shut again.

Bricks have a habit of crumbling under pressure.

http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn17173-why-ida-fossil-is-not-the-missing-link.html

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That this fossil is being touted as the "missing link" -- that very headline was used in the Wall Street Journal -- is just journalism blather for the most part. There is no one "missing link" between humans and their ancestors; there are a bunch of subtle intermediate forms, some of which have been found and some that will never be found because they did not fossilize.

And so what? Evolution is unquestionably correct. We are evolved animals.

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Posted

I feel compelled to point out that crumbling under pressure is something that bricks are not, in fact, known for doing.

That is why we build houses out of them.

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Posted

One of the problems with understanding what a missing link is all about is that we tend to think of extinct forms as 'older models' - which isn't (quite) accurate. Hence we get questions like the infamous "if humans evolved from monkeys, why are there still monkeys?".

The best way to understand the relationship between living forms and fossil forms is to understand a good cladistic tree diagram that has fossils on it. They seem tough to find. Usually a tree diagram is all over the place, and ten to one you'll find humans at the top and worms and so forth near the bottom. Incorrect! All living forms should be lined up neatly along the top of the diagram, so that branches of extinct lineages can appropriately end before reaching it. Thus, the unit of measurement as one proceeds up the tree is not 'evolved-ness' but simply time, so that estimated times at which lineages diverged can be represented by their positions up the y-axis.

Such a thing is uncomfortably hard to find! stay tuned

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dn17173-1_500.jpg

Okay this one is quite good. This is trying to suggest that Ida in particular is not ancestral to apes but is a form of ancestral lemur. Put that out of your mind for a second and lets think about ancestral fossils.

As you can see, only living species are represented at the 'top' of the tree, and are in black type, while lines that branched off and went extinct are in grey and don't reach the top of the tree.

Now its important to understand that it is part of the rules of making a tree like this that you never actually show a fossil form as being on the direct ancestral line, you always show it as a separate diverged species, indicating that although our direct ancestors may have been extremely like the lineage we have fossils of, they may not have been that specific line. That should not distract us from the fact that there is indeed every chance that we are in fact directly descended from, say the early australopithecus afarensis of which 'lucy' is a famous example (and indicated on the diagram). On the other hand, the australopithecus robustus which isn't on the diagram but which would be connected to where the line marked australopithecus ends, is certainly a wholly separate lineage, sharing the earlier, smaller australopithecines as the common ancestor of humans, but not representative of the line that spawned us. One should also keep in mind that many experts believe that in these days of early homonids there were many coexisting species of ape-man (and they really were apelike, though bipedal - we aren't talking cavemen at all here so much as we are walking chimps). This is why there's controversy, for example, over whether homo habilis is a direct human ancestor or a side branch like A. robustus.

Okay, I'm totally getting of track here. So if theres anyone out there I haven't bored off yet, let me talk for a second about what a 'missing link' is. When the term was coined, the 'link' part meant linking humans with basically the rest of creation. We needed fossils that were transitional between modern humans and something like a chimp. With the placement of australopithecines and the various homo fossils into the picture, that was essentialy a solved issue, and lucy herself was often called the missing link. being distinctly chimplike but nevertheless bipedal and sharing many other human characteristics, she is as good as any individual fossil can be at being the arbitrary 'link' between modern humans and the ancestral ape.

But the term didn't go away, instead what we usually see it mean today is something like "a form representative of what the common ancestor of two distinct lineages probably looked like". So, lucy is also a missing link in this sense, in this case the link between all forms of Homo and all forms of Australopithecus. In this sense, the missing link between humans and chimps is indeed still missing - lucy is too human to be ancestral to chimps (so most think anyway), and there is still a paucity of fossils much earlier than her in the same line.

Interestingly, if we apply the same logic to the common ancestor of all apes and monkeys, which should occupy the place on the diagram where you see the test "40 mya" we find that it must have been something which is technically classified as a monkey. To see why, note the position of the new world monkeys. There is no way to identify an ancestor of [all monkeys] that is not also the ancestor of [all apes including humans]. That means that whatever 'monkeyness' is defined as, the ancestor of humans and all our ape and modern monkey cousins, must have had those monkey traits, in particular any monkey traits shared by old world and new world monkeys must have also been present in the ancestral monkey.

I fear the point of all that is unclear, so let me spell it out:

We evolved from monkeys. The common ancestor of humans and monkeys was not just monkey-like, but was in fact by definition a monkey. Whats more, humans are technically monkeys, just as we are technically apes, technically mammals, and technically animals. Anywhere you read that 'actually science says we didn't come from monkeys but from a monkeylike ancestor that also gave rise to monkeys', is in fact misinformed.

So whether or not Ida is ancestral to all anthropoids, whatever it is that is the common ancestor of all anthropoids (and not also the ancestor of anything else), must have been a monkey.

I guess I hope to have clarified the relationships between living organisms and fossil ancestral and non-ancestral organisms a bit.

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