The news sites and blogs have reports of a new fossil found in Germany, a 47 million year old primate, named Darwinius masillae. The quality of preservation of this fossil is extraordinary, and even reveals what its last meal was. PZ Myers gives the lowdown at Pharyngula (Darwinius masillae).
Of course, there’s a major PR job going on about this – check out Ed Yong’s blog (Not Just Rocket Science – Darwinius changes everything) for a refreshing view. John Wilkins (Evolving Thoughts -No, it’s not an ancestor either (probably)) questions statements that it’s the ancestor of all primates (he cites Science Daily).
The blogosphere’s pretty full of writing about Darwinius – some buys into the hype, others question it. one thing’s for sure, it’s a damn fine fossil. On the downside is the confusion the news coverage may engender in the public, with buzz-words/phrases like “missing link” and “oldest ancestor of humans” flying around.
I think the BBC News website (Scientists hail stunning fossil) strikes the correct balance with comments such as:
Dr Henry Gee, a senior editor at the journal Nature, said the term itself was misleading and that the scientific community would need to evaluate its significance.
The publication is accompanied by a David Attenborough fronted BBC TV programme! (Makes my YouTube press release via the BBSRC look really rather puny!). If you’d like to read the paper, it is publishe din the open access journal PLoS One: