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New primate fossil found

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New primate fossil found
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Blog of ReasonHelperUser avatarPosts: 240Joined: Fri Apr 10, 2009 2:28 pmLocation: League of Reason

Post New primate fossil found

Wed May 20, 2009 10:46 am
RhyszHappy CamperUser avatarPosts: 93Joined: Tue Feb 24, 2009 1:04 pm

Post Re: New primate fossil found

From Paharyngula:

"What's so cool about it?

Age. It's 47 million years old. That's interestingly old"¦it puts us deep into the primate family tree.

Preservation. This is an awesome fossil: it's almost perfectly complete, with all the bones in place, preserved in its death posture. There is a halo of darkly stained material around it; this is a remnant of the flesh and fur that rotted in place, and allows us to see a rough outline of the body and make estimates of muscle size. Furthermore, the guts and stomach contents are preserved. Ida's last meal was fruit and leaves, in case you wanted to know.

Life stage. Ida is a young juvenile, estimate to be right on the transition from requiring parental care to independent living. That means she has a mix of baby teeth and adult teeth , she's a two-fer, giving us information about both.

Phylogeny. A cladistic analysis of the fossil revealed another interesting point. There are two broad groups of primates: the strepsirrhines, which includes the lemurs and lorises, and the haplorhines, which includes monkeys and apes"¦and us, of course. Ida's anatomy places her in the haplorhines with us, but at the same time she's primitive. This is an animal caught shortly after a major branch point in primate evolutionary history.

She's beautiful and interesting and important, but I do have to take exception to the surprisingly frantic news coverage I'm seeing. She's being called the "missing link in human evolution", which is annoying. The whole "missing link" category is a bit of journalistic trumpery: almost every fossil could be called a link, and it feeds the simplistic notion that there could be a single definitive bridge between ancient and modern species. There isn't: there is the slow shift of whole populations which can branch and diverge. It's also inappropriate to tag this discovery to human evolution. She's 47 million years old; she's also a missing link in chimp evolution, or rhesus monkey evolution. She's got wider significance than just her relationship to our narrow line.

People have been using remarkable hyperbole when discussing Darwinius. She's going to affect paleontology "like an asteroid falling down to earth"; she's the "Mona Lisa" of fossils; she answers all of Darwin's questions about transitional fossils; she's "something that the world has never seen before"; "a revolutionary scientific find that will change everything". Well, OK. I was impressed enough that I immediately made Ida my desktop wallpaper, so I'm not trying to diminish the importance of the find. But let's not forget that there are lots of transitional forms found all the time. She's unique as a representative of a new species, but she isn't at all unique as a representative of the complex history of life on earth.

When Laelaps says, "I have the feeling that this fossil, while spectacular, is being oversold," I think he's being spectacularly understated. Wilkins also knocks down the whole "missing link" label. The hype is bad news, not because Ida is unimportant, but because it detracts from the larger body of the fossil record , I doubt that the media will be able to muster as much excitement from whatever new fossil gets published in Nature or Science next week, no matter how significant it may be.

Go ahead and be excited by this find, I know I am. Just remember to be excited tomorrow and the day after and the day after that, because this is perfectly normal science, and it will go on."
BTWDL (Behead Those Who Don't Laugh)

Mateable, not dateable

The High Potentate of the Holy Church of Pantyism, The LoR board's first religion dedicated to the worship of the female form!
Wed May 20, 2009 12:09 pm
MikeFozLeague LegendUser avatarPosts: 80Joined: Sat Feb 21, 2009 10:29 pm

Post Re: New primate fossil found

Even Google are getting in on the hype:
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Wed May 20, 2009 4:29 pm
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DRMProdUser avatarPosts: 12Joined: Sun Feb 22, 2009 2:21 amLocation: Buenos Aires, Argentina

Post Re: New primate fossil found

Rhysz I totally agree with you. I'm tired of it being called "the missing link" or "el eslabà³n perdido" as we call it here. It's incredibly annoying also to realize how many people don't understand how evolution works...
Dios mueve al jugador, y éste, la pieza. ¿Qué Dios detrás de Dios la trama empieza de polvo y tiempo y sueño y agonías?
—Jorge Luis Borges

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Thu May 21, 2009 5:08 am
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AndromedasWakeLeague LegendUser avatarPosts: 598Joined: Fri Feb 20, 2009 11:38 pmLocation: Captain's Chair, League HQ Gender: Cake

Post Re: New primate fossil found

Absolutely stunning!! :shock: :)
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(( "We are 'star-stuff'. We are a way for the cosmos to know itself." - Carl Sagan | Music! | Twitter - [ AndromedasWake | SiriusStargazer ] ))
Thu May 21, 2009 10:57 am
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