06 March 2010


Ida: now just a nice fossil

Remember the crazy hype last year about "Ida," the beautifully preserved 47 million–year–old primate? The one I called a "cool fossil that got turned into a publicity stunt?"

It turns out that, yes, the original authors seem to have rushed their paper about Ida into publication, presumably in order to meet a deadline for a TV special. And even by the loosest definition of the term, Ida is no "missing link" whatsoever, and not closely related to humans. (Not that relatedness to humans is what should make a fossil important, mind you.)

So now, like Ardi, who's ten times younger, Ida is what it deserves to be: a fascinating set of remains from which we can learn many things, but not anything that fundamentally revolutionizes our understanding of primate evolution. And that's a good thing.

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