Ida The Fossilized Lemur-Thing Coming To London

M@
By M@ Last edited 107 months ago
Ida The Fossilized Lemur-Thing Coming To London

Not content with its own biography, TV show, sax solo and miraculous appearances on breakfast toast, Ida the fossilized lemur-thing will make her debut in London society later today when a cast of the daintily preserved primate goes on show at the Natural History Museum.

You've probably heard the backstory. Darwinius masillae (if that is its real name) was discovered in Germany a couple of decades ago. After furtively keeping out of the limelight in private hands, Ida has only recently made its skeletal way into the peer-reviewed literature. The 47-million-year-old critter has since been hailed as a 'missing link' in human evolution; a stepping-stone between primitive mammals and the hominids. The attendant media carnival is sweeping all before it. Expect action figures and video games in time for Christmas.

While it's always pleasing to see positive science stories making the headlines, this breathless reportage has more than a few scientists rolling their eyes. The specimen is undoubtedly stunning, retaining impressions of the creature's fur and last meal. But many question the importance of the discovery, the conclusions about human ancestry that have been drawn from it, and the reckless and near-universal use of the term 'missing link'. "I am not one to advocate violence, but should you find yourself gripped by an uncontrollable urge to deck the next person you meet who utters this phrase, then I certainly wouldn’t stand in your way," says our favourite expert on such things.

Whether or not the creature is our great, great...great grandmother, or merely a cousin 5 million times removed, it's certainly an impressive specimen. The cast will no doubt have people queueing for a gawp at the Natural History Museum from today.

Last Updated 26 May 2009