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The Missing Link (2): Most Complete Fossil In Primate Evolution

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  • Description: Missing Link In Human Evolution (Part 2): Most Complete Fossil In Primate Evolution Revealed.

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    Official Press Release (PDF):

    Scientific Publication:


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    Scientists Discover 'Missing Link' In Human Evolution (Source: Sky News, May 19, 2009)

    Scientists say they have found a primate fossil that shows our connection with other mammals and our earliest human ancestor. These pictures are from the programme "The Link" by Atlantic Productions.

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    Scientists hail stunning fossil
    By Christine McGourty
    Science correspondent, BBC News

    The beautifully preserved remains of a 47-million-year-old, lemur-like creature have been unveiled in the US. Christine McGourty takes a look at the beautifully preserved primate fossil.

    The preservation is so good, it is possible to see the outline of its fur and even traces of its last meal.

    The fossil, nicknamed Ida, is claimed to be a "missing link" between today's higher primates - monkeys, apes and humans - and more distant relatives.

    But some independent experts, awaiting an opportunity to see the new fossil, are sceptical of the claim.

    And they have been critical of the hype surrounding the presentation of Ida.

    The fossil was launched amid great fanfare at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, by the city's mayor.

    Although details of the fossil have only just been published in a scientific journal - PLoS One - there is already a TV documentary and book tie-in.

    She belongs to the group from which higher primates and human beings developed but my impression is she is not on the direct line
    Dr Jens Franzen

    Ida was discovered in the 1980s in a fossil treasure-trove called Messel Pit, near Darmstadt in Germany. For much of the intervening period, it has been in a private collection.

    The investigation of the fossil's significance was led by Jorn Hurum of the Natural History Museum in Oslo, Norway.

    He said the fossil creature was "the closest thing we can get to a direct ancestor" and described the discovery as "a dream come true".

    The female animal lived during an epoch in Earth history known as the Eocene, which was crucial for the development of early primates - and at first glance, Ida resembles a lemur.

    But the creature lacks primitive features such as a so-called "toothcomb", a specialised feature in which the lower incisor and canine teeth are elongated, crowded together and projecting forward. She also lacks a special claw used for grooming.



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    "Uncovering Our Earliest Ancestor - The Missing Link In Evolution" narrated by Sir David Attenborough.

    The Link is a feature-length documentary film made by the award-winning Atlantic Productions with exclusive access to Ida and the team of scientists who have examined her. The film shows how microtomography, CT scans and X-ray techniques were used to examine and recreate a 3D image of the creature, revealing that this early primate was a previously unknown species and one of our earliest ancestors. Filmed in High Definition in locations in Europe, America and Africa, this documentary special combines one of the most extraordinary finds ever made, the latest scientific techniques and state of the art graphics to take us on an epic evolutionary journey.


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