Remarkably Preserved Fossil May Be Missing LinkMay 19, 1998 13:50 The remarkably preserved fossil remains of a lemur-like, 47-million-year-old creature was unveiled amid great fanfare at the American Museum of Natural History in New York on Tuesday. Some say the fossil, named Ida, is the "missing link" between modern primates – humans, monkeys and apes - and their more distant relatives.
Ida’s preservation is so good that the outline of its fur and even traces of its last meal are visible.
However, some independent experts are critical of the hype surrounding the fossil’s unveiling, and are skeptical that the fossil represents the missing link.
Ida was discovered in the 1980s in a fossil treasure-trove near Darmstadt, Germany, known as Messel Pit. The fossil has been in a private collection since that time.
Although details about Ida have been published in only one scientific journal, PLoS One, a book and a TV documentary about the discovery are already in the works.
Jorn Hurum of the Natural History Museum in Oslo, Norway, led the investigation of the fossil's significance. In an interview with BBC News, he described the female animal as "the closest thing we can get to a direct ancestor", and called the discovery "a dream come true".
Ida lived during a time in Earth’s history known as the Eocene, which was critical for the development of early primates. Although a cursory glance at Ida shows her resembling a lemur, the creature lacks primitive features such as a "toothcomb", a specialized feature in which the canine teeth and lower incisors project forward and are elongated and crowded together. She is also without a special claw used for hygiene.
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