Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Missing Link Found?

Franzen et al. announced the discovery of the most complete transitional fossil primate ever found. The fossil, described as Darwinius masillae, shows prosimian characteristics (e.g. a grooming claw on the second digit of the foot, and a fused row of teeth in the middle of her lower jaw known as a toothcomb), but has toe and fingernails, opposable thumbs, and a humanlike talus bone.

The Conclusions/Significance section of the abstract tells us,

Darwinius masillae represents the most complete fossil primate ever found, including both skeleton, soft body outline and contents of the digestive tract. Study of all these features allows a fairly complete reconstruction of life history, locomotion, and diet. Any future study of Eocene-Oligocene primates should benefit from information preserved in the Darwinius holotype. Of particular importance to phylogenetic studies, the absence of a toilet claw and a toothcomb demonstrates that Darwinius masillae is not simply a fossil lemur, but part of a larger group of primates, Adapoidea, representative of the early haplorhine diversification.
The announcement accompanies a veritable "media tsunami", including a American Museum of Natural History unveiling, a New York Times article, and a two-hour documentary to be broadcast on the History Channel on Memorial Day (May 25th).

Hype? Uberhype?

Probably, but I am withholding judgment until I find out more about it. Generally speaking, I am in favor greater public awareness of transitional evolutionary fossils. Even if this turns out to be somewhat inaccurate, and the precise phylogenetic position isn't directly linked to man, it will still raise awareness of evolutionary theory among an ill-educated public.

Franzen, J., Gingerich, P., Habersetzer, J., Hurum, J., von Koenigswald, W., & Smith, B. (2009). Complete Primate Skeleton from the Middle Eocene of Messel in Germany: Morphology and Paleobiology PLoS ONE, 4 (5) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0005723



  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Let's have some fun this:


  3. Me parece muy intresante este post, sobre todo por la importancia trascendental en la historia de la Evolución planteada por Darwin.
    Es increíble que podamos tener evidencia respecto de sus planteamientos
    Lo felicito por su blog, es muy interesante

  4. Where did the tail go? it LOST it! LOSS of info!