Saturday, March 06, 2010

Ida Oops! Evolution Not Proved, After All

Scientists dispel notion printed in New York Times last year that fossil discovery 'changes everything' with more significance than landing men on the moon

You heard this news everywhere, right? (Just like how this discovery was a media sensation last year.)

-- From "Report: 'Ida' fossil looks like lemur, not human ancestor" by Dan Vergano, USA Today 3/2/10

So long "Ida"? A well-publicized 47-million-year-old primate fossil looks like an ancestor to lemurs, not people, concluded a paleontology team Tuesday.

In the Journal of Human Evolution report, a team led by evolutionary anthropologist Blythe Williams of Duke University in Durham, N.C., take on Darwinius massilae, touted in a May PLoS One study as an evolutionary "haplorhine" precursor to apes and humans. "Darwinius masillae represents the most complete fossil primate ever found, including both skeleton, soft body outline and contents of the digestive tract," concluded the study led by Jens Franzen of Switzerland's Naturhistorisches Museum Basel.

Dubbed "Ida", the fossil's report attracted controversy among scientists after its announcement at a news conference, as well as for the involvement of a History Channel documentary, The Link, which asked whether Ida was, "The most important fossil ever found?"

But in October, a Nature study concluded Ida didn't look all that different from fossil primates related to lemurs, not apes and people. And the new Journal of Human Evolution study responds point-by-point to the original paper's description of Ida's anatomy, to reach the same conclusion: Ida looks like a member of an extinct lemur family, not a pre-human one.

To read the entire article, CLICK HERE.