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Fossil Ida, the 'eighth wonder of the world'?

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Yet another so called proof that we evolved from the apes?


Fossil Ida, the 'eighth wonder of the world'?



Deal in Hamburg bar led scientist to Ida fossil, the 'eighth wonder of the world'


• Anonymous collector kept fossil in private for quarter of a century

• Purchase of specimen with $1m price tag was huge gamble for scientist

• How Ida fits into the primate family tree


* James Randerson and Ed Pilkington in New York

* guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 19 May 2009 22.40 BST


Watch Jørn Hurum discussing this major find Link to this video


Hunched around a table at a vodka bar in Hamburg, Jørn Hurum, a palaeontologist, was about to make the scientific gamble of his life. Thomas Perner, a fossil dealer whom he knew well, had insisted they met; he had something very special to show him.


Looking nervously over his shoulder for prying glances, Perner put three .photographs of a fossil on the bar table. "My heart started beating extremely fast," said Hurum. "I knew that the dealer had a world sensation in his hands. I could not sleep for two nights."


Rumours had been flying around for years in the palaeontological community about a spectacular primate fossil specimen. Now Hurum was one of the first people in the world to see it.

James Randerson on the unveiling of Fossil Ida Link to this audio


Like a real-life Indiana Jones, his first thought was how he could ensure the fossil was saved for scientific study rather be lost to a private collection. "I was just thinking about how to get this to an official museum so that it could be described for science."


But to do that he would have to take the biggest gamble of his career. On the strength of the potential he saw in those photos he would have to find the $1m asking price for the specimen or risk it going underground again. "They were very high stakes," said his close colleague at the University of Oslo and long-time friend, Prof David Bruton. "He took a terrible risk."


Today, after two years of painstaking, secret scientific work that required an internationally renowned team to invent techniques to study the fossil, the results of Hurum's wager were made public.


The fossil was unveiled to the world amid a blaze of publicity at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. It was shown behind a glass box, its elongated back and slinking tail curved like a new moon.


Several groups had scrambled to attach their names to the find, from Michael Bloomberg, New York's mayor, who was photographed beside the fossil with his arm round a schoolgirl, to the Norwegian minister of higher education, who pledged $350,000 of government money to the project. The publishers Little Brown gave a speech, having brought out a book on the discovery in deepest secrecy and the record time of just four months.


At the centre of events was Hurum. He declared that the find, named Ida, was "the most complete fossil before human burial". He showed pictures of the Mona Lisa and the Rosetta Stone, making the point about the importance of this discovery, and he called it the Holy Grail of palaeontology. Another speaker alluded to the moon landings.


The story of the primate fossil began in the summer of 1983 in Germany. An anonymous collector, accompanied by Perner, was fossil hunting at the Messel pit, a shale quarry near Darmstadt, Germany. The site has yielded an amazing array of exquisitely preserved fossils, including more than 60 pygmy horses, some of which were pregnant, eight species of crocodile, more than 1,000 bats, and insects with the colours on their wings still visible.


What happened after the mystery collector stumbled on Ida at the bottom of Turtle Hill remains unknown. But what is clear is that he knew he had something very special. He prepared the fossil meticulously and with some skill (if he had not the layers of oil shale in which it was found would have disintegrated). He added it to his private collection and, it seems, showed it to no one. "This is typical for collectors," said Hurum. He said he knew collectors who kept their best specimens hidden even from others who shared their passion. "It is something about owning a part of history, that you know when you show it to people it will change things … It is a powerful feeling to have something … nobody knows about."


Full article: http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2009/may/19/fossil-ida-missing-link-discovery

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Ida: Missing link found?


Okay, Darwinists, feel free to take a victory lap, said Allahpundit in Hot Air. The American Museum of Natural History on Tuesday unveiled "Ida," a 47-million-year-old fossil of a baby monkey ancestor. Ida—more formally known as Darwinius masillae—is "a missing link, not necessarily the missing link, although insofar as it seems to confirm Darwin's speculation about transitional species, it's a huge coup for fans of Uncle Charlie."


Darwinius masillae is definitely an "awesome fossil," said University of Minnesota, Morris, biologist PZ Myers in Scienceblogs.com, but all the hype about how she's the missing link in human evolution is annoying. Ida is just one of many, many links in the evolution of humans—and chimpanzees and rhesus monkeys—so she isn't really "at all unique as a representative of the complex history of life on Earth."


Granted, the researchers over-hyped this find to get attention, said Thomas H. Maugh II and Tina Susman in the Los Angeles Times, but "the fossil is certainly a gem." Scientists have mostly pieced together the story of evolution using "fossilized skulls, jawbones, and the occasional foot." But the lemur-like Darwinius masillae was so well preserved when her remains settled into the bottom of a lake that we know what her last meal was—berries and a salad—so there's good reason to hope that studying her will fill gaps in our knowledge.




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