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Ida: A link to human evolution

  • V. P. Sharma

Abstract

Year 2009 is being celebrated as the bicentenary of British naturalist Charles Robert Darwin’s birth as well as 150 years of his book “On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or The Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life” in short “On the Origin of Species”. Darwin is hailed as one of the greatest scientist who put forth the theory of gradual evolution and branching of all life forms. Unfortunately, then fossil records were incomplete to produce evidence of human evolution. For 200 years paleobiologists were looking for any evidence of a transitional fossil to showcase the evolution of monkeys, apes and human. The story of Ida began in 1983 when she was collected from Messel pit in Germany by an unknown collector, and displayed in his home for 20 years before deciding to sell. The fossil Ida was preserved in nature for ages in the Germany’s Messel pit, a crater rich in Eocene Epoch fossils. Ida lived when major changes were taking place on earth, the dinosaurs had become extinct, the Himalayas were forming and a range of mammals thrived in vast jungles all over the world. Prof. Jørn Hurum of the Natural History Museum, University of Oslo, Norway bought the fossil for 1 million USD, assembled top international team of experts, studied the fossil secretly for 2 years, and satisfied themselves as to the genuineness of the fossil. Finally Prof. Jørn Hurum announced the discovery of 47 million years old fossil — a link in the evolution of monkeys, apes and man. He named the fossil “Ida” and her scientific name is Darwinius masillae (named in honor of Charles Darwin’s bicentenary). Ida will remain for long a subject of intense research and discussion almost throughout the world. The fact that all life forms have common ancestors at some point of time is a well established universal reality as unfolded by research on DNA.

Keywords

Darwin Evolution Darwinius masillae (Ida) Paleobiology Primate Religion 

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Copyright information

© The National Academy of Sciences, India 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • V. P. Sharma
    • 1
  1. 1.Centre for Rural Development and TechnologyIndian Institute of TechnologyHauz Khas, New DelhiIndia

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