Has the missing link been found? Or a missing link? Or just a cool-looking fossil?
Lots of post from Science Blogs:
The fossil, named Ida (the scientific name is Darwinius masillae, a new genus), was discovered in Messel Pit, Germany and lived around 47 million years ago. The fossil is 95% complete – an incredibly complete fossil for an early primate – and along with the skeleton also contains the outline of the body and the contents of the gut. From such rich information, the scientists were able to deduce that Ida was a herbivorous female of about nine months of age.
Laelaps has doubts:
I have the feeling that this fossil, while spectacular, is being oversold. This raises an important question about the way scientific discoveries, particularly fossil finds, are being popularized. Darwinius is just the latest is a string of significant fossils to be hyped in the media before being scientifically described (or at least before that information is released to the public). Other recent examples include “Dakota” the Edmontosaurus, the pliosaur “Predator X”, and “Lyuba” the baby mammoth. I am glad that these finds are stirring excitement, but I am a bit put off by the way they are presented.
She’s beautiful and interesting and important, but I do have to take exception to the surprisingly frantic news coverage I’m seeing. She’s being called the “missing link in human evolution”, which is annoying. The whole “missing link” category is a bit of journalistic trumpery: almost every fossil could be called a link, and it feeds the simplistic notion that there could be a single definitive bridge between ancient and modern species. There isn’t: there is the slow shift of whole populations which can branch and diverge. It’s also inappropriate to tag this discovery to human evolution. She’s 47 million years old; she’s also a missing link in chimp evolution, or rhesus monkey evolution. She’s got wider significance than just her relationship to our narrow line.
Ida made face of the day at Sully’s place. Allah Pundit has a post up, as does Jonathan Turley. Two posts from Charles Johnson at LGF: one about the fossil and the other reporting on Rush Limbaugh calling the whole thing “BS.” John Cole has a post up.
UPDATE: Attaturk at Firedoglake.
UPDATE #2: Brian Palmer in Slate.