Early Primate Ancestor Discovered

Darwinius masillae fossil.  Image credit:  PLoS

Darwinius masillae fossil. Image credit: PLoS

Scientists have unveiled a 47 million-year-old fossil from Germany, dubbed “Ida,” that may help illuminate the early evolution of monkeys, apes and humans.  Scientists say the fossil is a transitional species, living around the time the primate lineage split into two groups.  One line would eventually produce humans, primates and monkeys.  The other line would give rise to lemurs and other primates.  The fossil’s formal name is Darwinius masillae, in honor of the anniversary of Charles Darwin’s 200th birthday.  The fossil was originally discovered in 1983, but had been split in half and placed in private collections.  Not until it was recently investigated was the significance of the whole fossil realized.  An analysis of the fossil is detailed in the journal PLoS ONE here.

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