Ida the possible missing link between men and apes
Scientists in New York unveiled Tuesday the skeleton of what they said could be the common ancestor to humans, apes and other primates. The tiny creature, officially known as Darwinius masillae, but dubbed Ida, lived 47 million years ago and is unusually well preserved, missing only part of a leg, or five percent of the skeleton. The finding, described Tuesday in the PloS ONE scientific journal, was displayed at a press conference at New York's Natural History Museum, and is due to be the subject of a documentary on the History Channel, BBC and other broadcasters. Organizers said that scientists led by Norway's fossil expert, professor Jorn Hurum, worked for two years on Ida, first discovered in 1983 by private collectors who failed to understand her importance -- and split the bones into two lots. The monkey-like creature was preserved through the ages in Germany's Messel Pit, a crater rich in Eocene Epoch fossils. Although bearing a long tail, she had several human characteristics, including an opposable thumb, short arms and legs, and forward facing eyes. She also lacked two key elements of modern lemurs: a grooming claw and a row of lower teeth known as the toothcomb. "This is the first link to all humans -- truly a fossil that links world heritage," Hurum said in a statement.