Missing Link in Human Evolution Found – 47 million-year-old Primate, Darwinius Masillae

May 20, 2009 / 5 Comments

The missing link in human’s evolution has been found, or at least that’s what researchers think.

This 47 million-year-old primate (Darwinius Masillae) unveiled yesterday at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, is the long-sought missing link in mankind’s family tree. Known as Ida, the lemur-like creature had opposable thumbs like humans, fingernails instead of claws and hands that can grasp things.

47 million year old primate darwinius masillae Missing Link in Human Evolution Found   47 million year old Primate, Darwinius Masillae

Ida, the 47million-year-old lemur could be the missing link in human evolution

First discovered outside of Frankfurt in 1983 in a fossil treasure trove called the Messel Pit (probably a volcanic caldera), Ida has been a collector’s item ever since. But after a million-dollar deal, researchers got their hands on something that could change the way we understand human evolution. Could it be the link between humans and apes that would confirm Charles Darwin’s theory?

47 million year old primate darwinius masillae 1 Missing Link in Human Evolution Found   47 million year old Primate, Darwinius Masillae

Ida, the 47million-year-old lemur could be the missing link in human's evolution

“This specimen is like finding the Lost Ark for archeologists. 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,” said lead scientist Jorn Hurum at the unveiling ceremony.

Unlike Lucy— the famous Ethiopian fossil (Australophithecus afarensis) that was 3.2million years old and only 40 per cent complete, Ida is roughly 95 per cent complete with individual hairs preserved imprinted into the rock and traces of her last meal in her stomach.

Ida, the 47million-year-old lemur could be the missing link in human's evolution

Rather than being our “grandmother” Ida is more like a “grand aunt”. That’s because she’s supposed to come from a time when the primate family tree was splitting into two groups. One with humans, apes and monkeys, and the other one with lemurs and bush babies. Tests on her teeth revealed that although she appears more similar to a lemur, she is actually closer to the line that resulted in apes, monkeys and humans.

Ida, the 47million-year-old lemur could be the missing link in human's evolution

Ida, the 47million-year-old lemur could be the missing link in human's evolution

Although there’s no solid evidence to say that this is part of the evolutionary chain and not a previously undiscovered entity, could Ida be the answer we’ve all been waiting for? We can’t wait the documentaries to start airing …

Images by MatrixPhotos and Reuters