Nye funn viser at «Ida» som ble presentert av paleontologen Jørn Hurum som the missing link, ikke en gang er en fjern slektning av mennesket, men tilhører en gren som utviklet seg til lemurer.
Forskere reagerer på at Ida ble hypet i et PR-jippo uten like, med klare kommersielle interesser, før Ida var forelagt kolleger til såkalt peer review.
I 2001 ble det gjort et funn i Egypt som er beslektet med Ida, og de to skjelettene knyttes til grenen som ble til lemurer.
Darwinius masillae, the primitive primate that was unveiled to the world with huge fanfare and a Sir David Attenborough documentary in May, seems now to have been less of a missing link than an evolutionary dead end. Far from being an ancestor to humans, the lemur-like creature from 47 million years ago belongs to an entirely different branch of the primate family tree that has left no known descendants, research has indicated.
The discovery of fossils of another similar animal from 37 million years ago has now cast grave doubt on that idea. Both Darwinius masillae and the new primate, Afradapis longicristatus, appear to belong to a different lineage, closer to lemurs than monkeys and apes, that died out without modern descendants.
Erik Seiffert, of Stony Brook University in New York state, who led the study, said: «Our analysis provides no support for the claim that Darwinius is a link in the origin of higher primates, and instead indicates that, if anything, Darwinius is more relevant for our understanding of the origin of lemurs and lorises — which are our most distant primate relatives.»
The new fossils, the first of which were found by Dr Seiffert’s team in Egypt in 2001, indicate strongly that this interpretation was indeed wrong. While Afradapis longicristatus and Darwinius have some anatomical features similar to anthropoids, Dr Seiffert’s research shows that these must have evolved independently.
«We compiled a large dataset of anatomical observations, made across 117 living and extinct primates, including all of the fossil primates that have been proposed as possible early members of the anthropoid group,» Dr Seiffert said. «We used a computer program to find the primate family tree that provides the simplest explanation for the distribution of these traits. In that tree, adapiform primates like Darwinius and Afradapis are not placed close to higher primates, but rather are situated as closer relatives of the living lemurs and lorises.»
Dr Seiffert said: «The PR hype surrounding the Darwinius description was very confusing. The uninformed observer watching the associated documentary certainly must have come away with a very different view — specifically that Darwinius truly was a critically important link in the origin of higher primates, if not the origin of apes or even humans.
Dette er en ganske drepende kritikk av Jørn Hurum og hans prosjekt. Man hemmeligholdt Ida og laget en PR-versjon som gikk på bekostning av faglig kvalitetskontroll.