Have They Found the "Missing Link?"

Buzzle Staff Jun 6, 2019
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Scientists in Germany say that they have found a 47-million-year-old fossil, which might well be the mysterious "missing link" between humans and other mammals.
Everyone has heard the theory that millions of years ago, there lived a mysterious creature, a descendent of apes and monkeys, who was the "missing link" in the evolutionary chain between those animals and the earliest human beings.
Despite rumors of Bigfoot, Sasquatch, and various archaeological findings of supposed skeletal evidence of the missing link, nothing definitive has ever been brought forth to support such a theory, until now.
A team of scientists at the University of Oslo Natural History Museum, have been studying a fossil found in Messel Pit, Germany, that is estimated to be 47 million years old - 20 times older than most of the fossils currently thought to explain the evolution of human beings.
Named "Ida," it shows evidence of physical characteristics from a very primitive evolutionary line of non-human prosimians, animals such as lemurs. Nonetheless, it is actually more similar in relation to anthropoids - the group of creatures that includes apes, monkeys, and human beings.
The fossil was evidently unearthed in 1983, by several private archaeology collectors, who divided the parts among themselves and sold two of the parts of the skeleton to other parties. A smaller missing part was later restored, and in the process of restoration, it was partly reconstructed to make the skeleton appear more complete.
According to scientists, this lesser part was purchased by a private museum located in Wyoming. That part now belongs to the collection at the Natural History Museum at the University of Oslo in Norway. Scientists have been assembling and restoring the skeleton for more than two years and it is now approximately 95% complete.
Unlike famous primate fossils discovered in Africa's so-called "Cradle of Mankind", Ida was discovered in Europe. Germany's Messel Pit is a mile-wide depression that is rich in oil, which makes it a significant site for very ancient fossils.
Analysis so far indicates that, Ida was a young female, and one of the foot bones of the skeleton - the talus bone - is a direct link to human beings, according to the scientists studying it.
The fossil also offered valuable information, based on the contents of Ida's stomach - seeds, fruits, and leaves. Researchers estimate that she was about nine months old when she died, and they suspect that she died from inhaling carbon dioxide gas, while drinking water at the Messel Lake.
She had a broken wrist, and the blanket of volcanic gas that often covers Messel Lake may have caused her to lose consciousness and fall into the water, where she died, after sinking to the bottom, and was preserved for 47 million years.
There is indeed compelling evidence, for Ida possibly being the "missing link", which the scientists have argued about for years. Ida lacks two important anatomical features typically found in lemurs - a row of fused teeth in the middle of the lower jaw, called a "toothcomb," and a grooming claw located on the second toe.
Also, she has fingernails instead of claws, and her teeth are closer in structure to a monkey's teeth. Her eyes face forward like modern humans, and her hands show evidence of an opposable thumb. Like modern-day humans, she had flexible arms and five fingers on each hand.
The period in which Ida is estimated to have lived, the Eocene, was a critical period in the history of the planet, it was when the modern-day mammals were first appearing. After dinosaurs became extinct, the creatures remaining were living on a planet that was subtropical, just beginning to take on the form and shape, that we are so familiar with today.
Land-based mammals such as horses, as well as whales, bats, and other creatures, lived in a vast jungle along with primates. And, if the researchers are correct, Ida may have lived among them.
The findings from scientific study of Ida have been published in the Public Library of Science one, an open-access journal of peer-reviewed scientific and medical research.