"MISSING LINK" PHOTOS: New Fossil Links Humans, Lemurs?
Meet "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.
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.