Missing Link? Not So Much

Despite all the hype (and that’s just what it is) over the recent “discovery” of a so-called “missing link” not everyone is beside themselves. In the AP story (HT: CT)  there are a few paragraphs that have been overlooked:

Experts not connected with the discovery said the finding was remarkably complete because of features like stomach contents. But they questioned the conclusions of Hurum and his colleagues about how closely it is related to ancestors of monkeys and humans.

“I actually don’t think it’s terribly close to the common ancestral line of monkeys, apes and people,” said K. Christopher Beard of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh. “I would say it’s about as far away as you can get from that line and still be a primate.”

Rather than a long-ago aunt, “I would say it’s more like a third cousin twice removed,” he said. So it probably resembles ancestral creatures “only in a very peripheral way,” he said.

Beard said scientists already have a fossil from China of about the same age that is widely accepted as coming from monkey-ape-human ancestral line, and it’s much smaller than the new-found fossil and ate a different diet. “They are radically different animals,” he said.

John Fleagle of the State University of New York at Stony Brook said the scientists’ analysis provides only “a pretty weak link” between the new creature and higher primates, called anthropoids, that includes monkeys and man.

“It doesn’t really tell us much about anthropoid origins, quite frankly,” Fleagle said.

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  1. Ja, but they needed something splashy really really badly for Charlie Darwin’s bicentennial.

  2. I was pretty disappointed by the discovery. It didn’t really seem like that big of a deal to me. Now Homo Erectus and Homo Habilis… *those* are thought provoking fossils.

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