Meet “Ida”, the “missing link”

May 19, 2009

The discovery of one of the oldest and most complete fossil primates yet known was announced to much fanfare on Tuesday. Darwinius masillae, new genus, new species, is described in PLoS One, and has been nicknamed “Ida” by her describers.

In outward appearance, D. masillae is essentially lemurid, but lacks the derived characters of strepsirrhini such as the tooth-comb and toilet claw. The authors place the specimen in the adipoidea, and ally it with the haplorrhini, in which tarsiers, monkeys and apes are classified.

Although the authors have been quite explicit, saying they “do not interpret Darwinius as anthropoid”, this didn’t stop the press from immediately attaching the “missing link” label to the specimen, much to the chagrin of PZ Myers, John Wilkins and Chris Beard.

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