Darwinius masillae : New primate fossil discovery could be a crucial link in evolution
A new fossil discovery, believed to be a transitional species showing characteristics from both the non-human (prosimians and lemurs) and human (anthropoids, monkeys, apes and man) evolutionary lines is grabbing headline all over the world. This fossil of a young female that probably resembled a modern-day lemur was discovered by amateur fossil hunters in 1983 in a mile-wide crater called the Messel Shale Pit, not far from Frankfurt. The creature, named Darwinius masillae, lived around 47 million years ago during the Eocene epoch, and is the first example of a previously unknown genus of primate.
An international team of researchers document the discovery of this remarkably complete fossil,which they believe could be a key link to explain the evolution of early primates, and, finally, modern human beings. The findings related to morphology and paleobiology of Darwinius masillae was published in online edition of Plos one. The fossil includes the skeleton, an outline of the creature’s body and the contents of its digestive tract, allowing the researchers to reconstruct its life history and diet.
Darwinius masillae was an agile creature, about three feet in length, which lived on fruit and leaves in the trees of the Messel rain forest. This Darwinius masillae fossil is of a young female and provides the most complete understanding of the paleobiology of any Eocene primate so far discovered. Any future study of Eocene-Oligocene primates should benefit from information preserved in the Darwinius holotype. Of particular importance to phylogenetic studies, the absence of a toilet claw and a toothcomb demonstrates that Darwinius masillae is not simply a fossil lemur, but part of a larger group of primates, Adapoidea, representative of the early haplorhine diversification.
Charles Darwinâ€™s famous theory of evolution by means of natural selection says that humans and modern apes had common ancestors. However, the fossil record show gaps in it with the lack of transitory species, but with discovery of Darwinius masillae , scientists believe that they found an evolution link .
Watch History channel on May 25 for a two-hour documentary, titled “The Link,” .
Journal reference and Image Credit :
Franzen JL, Gingerich PD, Habersetzer J, Hurum JH, von Koenigswald W, et al. (2009) Complete Primate Skeleton from the Middle Eocene of Messel in Germany: Morphology and Paleobiology. PLoS ONE 4(5): e5723. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0005723