A Missing Link Found!

One of the greatest challenges in all of evolutionary science is to figure out which species evolved into which over time. From our perspective, we would love to know how humans came to be, who our ancestors were, and what simpler animals gave rise to us.

Well, we don't know this right now. We know a good portion of the fossil records, but -- like anything that relies on fossils -- there are gaps, referred to colloquially as missing links. One of the fun things to track is cranial capacity over time, and we find that Homo Sapiens' huge brains are recent developments.

And, as you can also see, there are gaps even in this relatively recent record. Did Homo Erectus evolve directly into Homo Sapiens? (Probably.) Is there a missing link? (Possibly.) But there are many, many gaps the farther back we go. The reason is simple: geology.

Everything that lives dies, but most dead things are recycled, not fossilized. We have to get lucky to find fossils, and we have to get luckier the farther back we go. And we get stopped about 600 million years ago (give or take) by the lifetime of sedimentary rock, which turns into metamorphic rock (and loses its fossils) on timescales longer than that. We know that the dinosaurs went extinct 65 million years ago, and that mammals rose after that. But how did humans come from that?

If we take a closer look, humans are great apes; we split off from them fairly recently. (And yes, there are missing links there.) Apes are primates, like dry-nosed monkeys and wet-nosed monkeys (like the lemur above) are. Scientists call the wet-nosers strepsirrhini and the dry-nosers haplorrhini. Note the dryness of your nose, and if you can't, then wipe it for goodness' sake!

Well, I'd like to introduce you to a long-lost cousin of yours. (And click to enlarge her.)

I probably can't say ancestor, because she died before reaching adulthood, where she would have been just under 2 pounds. But she is the only complete primate from over 35 million years ago (she's 43-47 million years old herself), and has a very special feature that is unique to her, but is found in apes and dry-nosed monkeys afterwards (and -- again -- click to enlarge):

Opposable digits!!! Yes, they're on her feet instead of her hands, but these graspers are different than, say, cat claws. They are much more like modern opposable thumbs found on extant dry-nosed primates. She also had fingernails, ape-like teeth, and a body built for tree-dwelling.

And she just might be the oldest complete fossil of a species that evolved into us. So enjoy the awesome biology news, even if it is coming from an astrophysicist! And a special thanks to Bora Z, who pointed this research out to me! (And who -- I'm sure -- has a more detailed writeup of this!)

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Great Stuff, thanks!

By NewEnglandBob (not verified) on 19 May 2009 #permalink

Why perpetuate the false notion of missing link?!!? Why title your post like this? It is insanely misleading, sensationalized, and, in my opinion, irresponsible from a blogging scientist. Sorry ... my two cents.

I agree with BrianR, there is simply not enough evidence to claim that this species is directly related to humans. In fact, that looks like the least likely possibility.

It is certainly a fascinating specimen and incredible find, but "missing link"? Dubious.

Great, We have been waiting for this from a long time. Many of our customers has started making skethes of missing link species by our high quality artist brush, as a manufacturer our supply has greatly increased as many people are purchasing our artist brushes to draw this missing link species.
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Yeah itâs interesting, but the article approaches the level of hyper-ventilating.

However, Iâm sure HA resident evolution âexpertsâ will be happy to share with us how this find is a joke, evolution is a hoax, etc, etc. As soon as I saw the article on Drudge I knew itâd be a good traffic day for HA.

Why the problem? it says it's only -A- missing link, not -THE- missing link: certainly, this is evidence for the first animals with opposable thumbs, I think it's certainly -A- missing link, and I don't think it's irresponsible to call it like that.

I'm not a creationist or religious at all, I guess I need to preface that as it seems to be how my comments were taken. I am, in fact, an undergraduate student of biology.

However, I will quote a relevant recent Laelaps article regarding this issue:

The bottom line is that the hypothesis that Darwinius is closer to anthropoids than tarsiers or omomyids does not have strong support. Even though the authors of the paper constructed a very simple cladogram they did not undertake a full, rigorous cladistic analysis to support their claims. I am baffled as to how they could stress the significance of this fossil without undertaking the requisite research to support their hypothesis.

He goes on to say:

The grand claims about it being our ancestor, though, can not be upheld as true. The researchers simply did not do the work to support their case, and even if their language was more reserved in the technical paper they have gone hand-in-hand with the History Channel to create an aura of sensationalism around the fossil.

Simply put, this species is most likely not a direct ancestor to humanity, more of a "cousin" (at least in the sense that humans and other great apes share a common ancestor with it), but calling it a "missing link" implies that it is.

you know just like every other "missing links" the scientist discover this one will turn out to be another fraud just like all the other "missing links", and also you ignorant scientists think that you have proven evolution by finding another specimen that was wiped out from Noahs flood 4000 years ago. Just because you find the remains of an animal doesn't prove evolution, the only way to prove evolution is to eye witness it first hand, which is impossible to even to do that because evolution has been proven wrong so many times it's not even funny anymore. For example, lets take horse evolution, you scientists have known this for over 200 years that it was proven wrong, but still yet you are still putting this proven-wrong things into the youths minds, scientists know the theory of evolution,(as if they treat it as if it were not a theory anymore) has been proven wrong, but they still put it in the text books these days, what scientists aren't telling you is that they have evidence(proof) that evolution is false, but still they continue to be ignorant and place it in peoples gulable little minds.

By Douglas Zeman (not verified) on 20 May 2009 #permalink

Well, you think that is a story? How about this...Mr Christian himself, answering to a greater father has had a little twist-about on that issue. Are you kidding me? Bush was elected TWICE because of the Christian right. He totally snubbed Al Gore on the global warming, in essence snubbing science itself. Now he has moved the Bible from his desk to his bookshelf next to the Dan Brown books? Quite a backslider:

http://www.socoolaz.com/article/World_News/World_News/Scientific_Missin…

Douglas Zeman - Seriously? Poe, I hope...with all the bad grammar and spelling, it's hard to tell...
("peoples gulable little minds" - LOL)

Ethan, as usual, great post.

Everything that lives dies, but most dead things are recycled, not fossilized. We have to get lucky to find fossils, and we have to get luckier the farther back we go. And we get stopped about 600 million years ago (give or take) by the lifetime of sedimentary rock, which turns into metamorphic rock (and loses its fossils) on timescales longer than that. We know that the dinosaurs went extinct 65 million years ago, and that mammals rose after that. But how did humans come from that?Library App

The opposable digits are on her feet instead of her hands. They look kind of strange, too long in my opinion, but these graspers are different than, say, cat claws. They are much more like modern opposable thumbs found on extant dry-nosed primates. She also had fingernails, ape-like teeth, and a body built for tree-dwelling. This looks like a good candidate for ancestry. Online Job Search

I agree with BrianR, there is simply not enough evidence to claim that this species is directly related to humans. In fact, that looks like the least likely possibility.

I agree with BrianR, there is simply not enough evidence to claim that this species is directly related to humans. In fact, that looks like the least likely possibility.

They look kind of strange, too long in my opinion, but these graspers are different than, say, cat claws. They are much more like modern opposable thumbs found on extant dry-nosed primates. She also had fingernails, ape-like teeth, and a body built for tree-dwelling.Regards, Thanks....!!!!

âm sure HA resident evolution âexpertsâ will be happy to share with us how this find is a joke, evolution is a hoax, etc, etc. As soon as I saw the article on Drudge. Regards, ThANKS.............!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Why the problem? it says it's only -A- missing link, not -THE- missing link: certainly, this is evidence for the first animals with opposable thumbs, I think it's certainly -A- missing link, and I don't think it's irresponsible to call it like that.
regards

Everything that lives dies, but most dead things are recycled, not fossilized. We have to get lucky to find fossils, and we have to get luckier the farther back we go. And we get stopped about 600 million years ago (give or take) by the lifetime of sedimentary rock, which turns into metamorphic rock (and loses its fossils) on timescales longer than that.Thanks............!!!!!!!!!!!

more of a "cousin" (at least in the sense that humans and other great apes share a common ancestor with it), but calling it a "missing link" implies that it is.

regards

The grand claims about it being our ancestor, though, can not be upheld as true. The researchers simply did not do the work to support their case, and even if their language was more reserved in the technical paper they have gone hand-in-hand with the History Channel to create an aura of sensationalism around the fossil.

He totally snubbed Al Gore on the global warming, in essence snubbing science itself. Now he has moved the Bible from his desk to his bookshelf next to the Dan Brown books? Quite a backslider:
regards

Why the problem? it says it's only -A- missing link, not -THE- missing link: certainly, this is evidence for the first animals with opposable thumbs, I think it's certainly -A- missing link, and I don't think it's irresponsible to call it like that.Thanks

Simply put, this species is most likely not a direct ancestor to humanity, more of a "cousin" (at least in the sense that humans and other great apes share a common ancestor with it), but calling it a "missing link" implies that it is.Thanks

There are a lot of missing links to a lot of junk science these days. I can see how we may have evolved from something else but proving it has been a hard sell for me so far.
do follow

but most dead things are recycled, not fossilized. We have to get lucky to find fossils, and we have to get luckier the farther back we go. And we get stopped about 600 million years ago (give or take) by the lifetime of sedimentary rock, which turns into metamorphic rock (and loses its fossils) on timescales longer than that. We know that the dinosaurs went extinct 65 million years ago, and that mammals rose after that.regards, thankx.!

Why perpetuate the false notion of missing link?!!? Why title your post like this? It is insanely misleading, sensationalized, and, in my opinion, irresponsible from a blogging scientist. Sorry ... my two cents.
regards

Why the problem? it says it's only -A- missing link, not -THE- missing link: certainly, this is evidence for the first animals with opposable thumbs, I think it's certainly -A- missing link, and I don't think it's irresponsible to call it like that.Thanks

Simply put, this species is most likely not a direct ancestor to humanity, more of a "cousin" (at least in the sense that humans and other great apes share a common ancestor with it), but calling it a "missing link" implies that it is.Thanks...!!!

We have to get lucky to find fossils, and we have to get luckier the farther back we go. And we get stopped about 600 million years ago (give or take) by the lifetime of sedimentary rock, which turns into metamorphic rock (and loses its fossils) on timescales longer than that. We know that the dinosaurs went extinct 65 million years ago, and that mammals rose after that.regards, thankx.!

We have to get lucky to find fossils, and we have to get luckier the farther back we go. And we get stopped about 600 million years ago (give or take) by the lifetime of sedimentary rock, which turns into metamorphic rock (and loses its fossils) on timescales longer than that.Thanks..!!

I like the photo of Brendan Frasier. Missing Link was a funny movie from his early career, before he went big time with the "Mummy" franchise. Good stuff.

We have to get lucky to find fossils, and we have to get luckier the farther back we go. And we get stopped about 600 million years ago (give or take) by the lifetime of sedimentary rock, which turns into metamorphic rock (and loses its fossils) on timescales longer than that. We know that the dinosaurs went extinct 65 million years ago, and that mammals rose after that.regards

We have to get lucky to find fossils, and we have to get luckier the farther back we go. And we get stopped about 600 million years ago (give or take) by the lifetime of sedimentary rock,

They look kind of strange, too long in my opinion, but these graspers are different than, say, cat claws. They are much more like modern opposable thumbs found on extant dry-nosed primates. She also had fingernails, ape-like teeth, and a body built for tree-dwelling.Cheers
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likely not a direct ancestor to humanity, more of a "cousin" (at least in the sense that humans and other great apes share a common ancestor with it), but calling regards..

Everything that lives dies, but most dead things are recycled, not fossilized. We have to get lucky to find fossils, and we have to get luckier the farther back we go. And we get stopped about 600 million years ago (give or take) by the lifetime of sedimentary rock, which turns into metamorphic rock (and loses its fossils) on timescales longer than that. We know that the dinosaurs went extinct 65 million years ago, and that mammals rose after that. But how did humans come from that

by the lifetime of sedimentary rock, which turns into metamorphic rock (and loses its fossils) on timescales longer than that. We know that the dinosaurs went extinct 65 million years ago, and that mammals rose after regards

we have to get luckier the farther back we go. And we get stopped about 600 million years ago (give or take) by the lifetime of sedimentary rock, which turns into metamorphic rock (and loses its fossils) on timescales longer than that. We know regards

we get stopped about 600 million years ago (give or take) by the lifetime of sedimentary rock, which turns into metamorphic rock (and loses its fossils) on timescales longer than that.Thanks

hese graspers are different than, say, cat claws. They are much more like modern opposable thumbs found on extant dry-nosed primates. She also had fingernails, ape-like teeth, and a body built for tree-dwelling.Cheers. Thanks

And we get stopped about 600 million years ago (give or take) by the lifetime of sedimentary rock, which turns into metamorphic rock (and loses its fossils) on timescales longer than that. We know that the dinosaurs went extinct 65 million years ago, and that mammals rose after that
regards

you right but i loved this line...
One of the greatest challenges in all of evolutionary science is to figure out which species evolved into which over time.

We have to get lucky to find fossils, and we have to get luckier the farther back we go. And we get stopped about 600 million years ago (give or take) by the lifetime of sedimentary rock, which turns into metamorphic rock (and loses its fossils) on timescales longer than that. We know that the dinosaurs went extinct 65 million years ago, and that mammals rose after that.Cheers

Why perpetuate the false notion of missing link?!!? Why title your post like this? It is insanely misleading, sensationalized, and, in my opinion, irresponsible from a blogging scientist. Sorry ... my two cents. regards

We have to get lucky to find fossils, and we have to get luckier the farther back we go. And we get stopped about 600 million years ago (give or take) by the lifetime of sedimentary rock, which turns into metamorphic rock (and loses its fossils) on timescales longer than that. We know that the dinosaurs went extinct 65 million years ago, and that mammals rose after that.regards

They look kind of strange, too long in my opinion, but these graspers are different than, say, cat claws. They are much more like modern opposable thumbs found on extant dry-nosed primates. She also had fingernails, ape-like teeth, and a body built for tree-dwelling.Cheers regards

This really is an awesome post, i'm happy I recently found. I have been trying to find guest writers for my blog so if you ever decide that's something you are interested in please feel free to contact me. I will be back to look at out more of your articles later!.....

They look kind of strange, too long in my opinion, but these graspers are different than, say, cat claws. They are much more like modern opposable thumbs found on extant dry-nosed primates. She also had fingernails, ape-like teeth, and a body built for tree-dwelling.Cheers regards

That's interesting, haven't seen this theroy before. Quite a huge leap in the brainsize there, thank god for that! :)
- Nelly Rabattkod

Why the problem? it says it's only -A- missing link, not -THE- missing link: certainly, this is evidence for the first animals with opposable thumbs, I think it's certainly -A- missing link, and I don't think it's irresponsible to call it like that. regards

thanks Coquihalla is quite the road. The roads off it are even more fun. Congrats on being sellected for the editors choice. Darrell from Vancouver regards

There is currently some useful information that regarding to health problem around this subject on the net and some are most definitely better than others. You have caught the detail here just right which makes for a refreshing change regards

The opposable digits are on her feet instead of her hands. They look kind of strange, too long in my opinion, but these graspers are different than, say, cat claws. They are much more like modern opposable thumbs found on extant dry-nosed primates. She also had fingernails, ape-like teeth, and a body built for tree-dwelling. This looks like a good candidate for ancestry.

There is currently some useful information that regarding to health problem around this subject on the net and some are most definitely better than others. You have caught the detail here just right. Thanks

They look kind of strange, too long in my opinion, but these graspers are different than, say, cat claws. They are much more like modern opposable thumbs found on extant dry-nosed primates. She also had fingernails, ape-like teeth, and a body built for tree-dwelling.

Our biology or the history of evolution is so fascinating. You can observe how nature drives for excellence. Transforming one creature into its simpler version, more adjusted into very different environmental circumstances.
Observe yourself- the way your behavior changes when you change the place you live in, the people that surround you.
It is your own evolution on small scale.
thanks

Transforming one creature into its simpler version, more adjusted into very different environmental circumstances.
Observe yourself- the way your behavior changes when you change the place you live in, the people that surround you.

You can observe how nature drives for excellence. Transforming one creature into its simpler version, more adjusted into very different environmental circumstances.

By http://www.cou… (not verified) on 18 Dec 2010 #permalink

Yeah itâs interesting, but the article approaches the level of hyper-ventilating.

However, Iâm sure HA resident evolution âexpertsâ will be happy to share with us how this find is a joke, evolution is a hoax, etc, etc. As soon as I saw the article on Drudge I knew itâd be a good traffic day for HA.

The grand claims about it being our ancestor, though, can not be upheld as true. The researchers simply did not do the work to support their case, and even if their language was more reserved in the technical paper they have gone hand-in-hand with the History Channel to create an aura of sensationalism around the fossil.

I love all the creatures! Dogs, horses, monkey, penguins, whales...our world is so beautiful and wise!
When you think about the logic of evolution, it brings so much light into our own way toward perfection- beautiful minds!

thank you and :)*
Nicole

they're on her feet instead of her hands, but these graspers are different than, say, cat claws. They are much more like modern opposable thumbs found on extant dry-nosed primates. She also had fingernails, ape-like teeth, and a body built for tree-dwelling.

If we take a closer look, humans are great apes; we split off from them fairly recently. (And yes, there are missing links there.) Apes are primates, like dry-nosed monkeys and wet-nosed monkeys thanks

The ability to disaffirm a contract provides enormous protection to minors who may otherwise be bound to uphold agreements detrimental to their well-being. The law protects minors from their immaturity, their inexperience and their tendency to engage in impulsive actions.

Christian... i was wondering if your JSON methods could be used to create a flash nav... i have a client that is interested in such a thing and was wondering if your JSONGETNODE.xslt could be my starting point???

hankfully, this trend seems to be short lived. I understand that space is luxury, but I favor intimacy and the personality that comes out in the smaller to medium sized restaurants we have.

hankfully, this trend seems to be short lived. I understand that space is luxury, but I favor intimacy and the personality that comes out in the smaller to medium sized restaurants we have.

thankfully, this trend seems to be short lived. I understand that space is luxury, but I favor intimacy and the personality that comes out in the smaller to medium sized restaurants we have.

hey:)
I like this blog, where you do not try to be a science superhero, discover the new starts ...but you do something else- which is exceptional- you make people love science through smiling. This is an exceptional lesson.
I can say- you have got the knowledge, but you still can stay detached. a lot of respect. would be great to become friends!
All the best.
and thank you for the link

By Augmentation M… (not verified) on 03 Mar 2011 #permalink

hey:)
I like this blog, where you do not try to be a science superhero, discover the new starts ...but you do something else- which is exceptional- you make people love science through smiling. This is an exceptional lesson.
I can say- you have got the knowledge, but you still can stay detached. a lot of respect. would be great to become friends!
All the best.
and thank you for the link

I think that it would make the experience more lattice-like for students because it would make it easier for them to monitor each other's postings.

However, Iâm sure HA resident evolution âexpertsâ will be happy to share with us how this find is a joke, evolution is a hoax, etc, etc. As soon as I saw the article on Drudge I knew itâd be a good traffic day for HA.

There are a lot of missing links to a lot of junk science these days. I can see how we may have evolved from something else but proving it has been a hard sell for me so far.

I agree with BrianR, there is simply not enough evidence to claim that this species is directly related to humans. In fact, that looks like the least likely possibility.

We're talking about a corporation taking away rights of citizens' choices...again via transparent extrapolation. And the "threat upon young smokers".

I like this Post...Thanks for sharing...