Thursday, June 6, 2013

As It Stands blog: Oldest primate skeleton yet tells new tale of our origins

Good Day World!

I still grapple with the claim that humans and monkeys are direct relatives, but am willing to secede to the knowledge of scientists…up to a point.

When they start linking us to bug-eyed little mouse creatures who ate insects 55 million years ago I call that a stretch. A big stretch. Even the Chinese, who found the mouse-sized creature, aren’t claiming it’s the missing link. That’s a relief.

They still put it on the same tree, but another branch at least! Not a bad move. But the moment I finally accept there may be a connection between this ancient mouse and humans someone else is going to discover the real missing link…you know what it is don’t you?

That’s right…an alien race who guided, and mated with, our ancestors! Meanwhile, here’s a news article talking about this latest discovery:

Researchers generally don't care for the term "missing link," but in the case of the oldest articulated primate skeleton ever discovered, paleontologist Christopher Beard says the missing-link label might almost be merited.

"It certainly in some ways could qualify for that term, in the sense that it's a hybrid, or a mosaic," he told NBC News. "It shows a combination of features that we've never seen before in any living or fossil primate. ... But I still would caution against it, because it's a loaded term."

More importantly, the mortal remains of a mouse-sized creature that lived 55 million years ago in China could provide new insights into our evolutionary roots — such as the incredibly small size and frenetic eating habits of our ancient forebears.

"This skeleton will tell us a lot of stories about the origin of primates, and about our remote ancestors," said Xijun Ni of the Chinese Academy of Sciences' Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology. Ni heads the international team of scientists who reported their findings in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature.

The fossil creature has been dubbed Archicebus achilles.

Ni and his colleagues don't claim that the species is directly linked to monkeys, apes and humans, on a branch of the family tree known as anthropoids.

Instead, they put it on the next branch over, which gave rise to a different group of modern-day primates called tarsiers. Despite that placement, Archicebus' skeleton shows some anthropoid characteristics — for example, a foot that's proportioned more like a monkey's foot than a tarsier's. (Full story here)

Time for me to walk on down the road…

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