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1 Local Warehouse Anthropology- General

The Link: Uncovering Our Earliest Ancestor

by and

The Link: Uncovering Our Earliest Ancestor Cover

 

Review-A-Day

"The Link begins by painting a highly anthropomorphized portrait of Ida as a "petite being" no more than "two feet tall" bearing "opposable thumbs." This depiction is intended to heighten the drama of poor Ida's untimely demise (she was less than a year old)....The possibility that Ida might be our distant ancestor is what set in motion the high-octane public relations machine of which The Link is but one cog. " Chris Beard, American Scientist (read the entire American Scientist review)

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Scientists have announced the discovery of a 47- million-year-old human ancestor. Discovered in the Messel Pit, Germany, the fossil is twenty times older than most fossils that explain human evolution. Known as "Ida," the fossil is a transitional species, showing characteristics of the very primitive nonhuman evolutionary line (prosimians, such as lemurs), but even more closely those of the human evolutionary line (anthropoids, such as monkeys, apes, and humans). This places Ida at the very root of anthropoid evolution — when primates were first developing the features that would evolve into our own. The scientists' findings are published by PLoS One, the open-access journal of the Public Library of Science.

The Link begins with a foreword by Norwegian fossil scientist Dr. Jørn Hurum of the University of Oslo's Natural History Museum, who for the past two years has led an international team of scientists as they secretly conducted a detailed forensic analysis of the extraordinary fossil, studying the data to decode humankind's ancient origins. At 95 percent complete, Ida is set to revolutionize our understanding of human evolution.

Unlike Lucy and other famous primate fossils found in Africa's Cradle of Mankind, Ida is a European fossil, preserved in Germany's Messel Pit, a mile-wide crater whose oil-rich shale is a significant site for fossils of the Eocene Epoch. Fossil analysis reveals that the prehistoric primate was a young female. Opposable big toes and nails rather than claws confirm that the fossil is a primate, and the presence of a talus bone in the foot links Ida directly to humans.

The fossil also features the complete soft body outline as well as the gut contents. An herbivore, Ida feasted on fruits, seeds, and leaves. X-rays reveal both baby and adult teeth, and the lack of a "toothcomb," which is an attribute of lemurs. The scientists estimate Ida's age when she died to be approximately nine months, and she measured approximately two feet in length.

*Ida lived 47 million years ago, at a critical period in the Earth's history. Her life fell within the Eocene Epoch, a time when the blueprints for modern mammals were being established. After dinosaurs became extinct, early horses, bats, whales, and many other creatures, including the first primates, thrived on a subtropical planet. The Earth was just beginning to take the shape that we know and recognize today — the Himalayas were being formed and modern flora and fauna were evolving. Land mammals, including primates, lived amid vast jungles.

*Ida was found to be lacking two of the key anatomical features found in lemurs: a grooming claw on the second digit of the foot, and a fused row of teeth in the middle of her lower jaw, known as a toothcomb. She has nails rather than the claws typical of nonanthropoid primates such as lemurs, and her teeth are similar to those of monkeys. Her forward-facing eyes are like ours — which would have enabled her fields of vision to overlap, allowing 3-D vision and an ability to judge distance.

*The fossil's hands show a humanlike opposable thumb. Like all primates, Ida has five fingers on each hand. Her opposable thumb would have provided a precision grip. In Ida's case, this would have been useful for climbing and gathering fruit; in our case, it allows important human functions such as making tools and writing. Ida also would have had flexible arms, which would have allowed her to use both hands for any task that cannot be done with one — like grabbing a piece of fruit.

*Evidence of a talus bone links Ida to us. The bone has the same shape as it does in humans today, though the human talus is obviously bigger. Extensive X-rays, CT scanning, and computer tomography reveal Ida to have been about nine months old when she died and provide clues to her diet, which included berries and plants. Furthermore, the lack of a bacculum (penis bone) means that the fossil was definitely female.

*X-rays reveal that a broken wrist may have contributed to Ida's death — her left wrist was healing from a bad fracture. The scientists believe she was overcome by carbon dioxide gas while she was drinking from the Messel Lake; the still waters of the lake were often covered with a low-lying blanket of the gas as a result of the volcanic forces that formed the lake and were still active. Hampered by her broken wrist, Ida slipped into unconsciousness, was washed into the lake, and sank to the bottom, where the unique conditions preserved her for 47 million years.

Review:

Many scientists disdain the hype that some of their colleagues seem to crave. It is unseemly, the critics say, and vaguely declasse for serious researchers to seek accolades from the mob. So how to evaluate Colin Tudge's "The Link"? This is the last hiccup of a media binge that began in May with the public debut of a nearly intact, 47-million-year-old primate fossil skeleton which may — or may not... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review)

Book News Annotation:

In 1982, a private fossil collector discovered a complete animal skeleton in a shale pit in Messel, Germany. Over twenty years later he decided to sell it at a fossil fair in Hamburg. By chance, it fell into the hands of Jrn Harum, a paleontologist from Oslo University. He recognized the forty-seven million year old fossil as a very early form of primate. He named it for his daughter, Ida. Science writer Tudge tells the story of Ida and her importance in the search for our human origins. Ida was a lemur-like animal who had opposable thumbs and primate-like teeth. The discovery of such a pristine fossil, one with even stomach contents visible, would be a wonderful find in any case. Ida's unique features make her a "Rosetta stone" for scientists. The book is intended for general readers, explaining the world Ida lived in and why she is important. One puzzling factor in that Tudge states that most of the book was written by Josh Young, but his name is not listed as author. Perhaps a later edition could tell the reader who he is. Annotation ©2010 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

Synopsis:

For more than a century, scientists have raced to unravel the human family tree and have grappled with its complications. Now, with an astonishing new discovery, everything we thought we knew about primate origins could change. Lying inside a high-security vault, deep within the heart of one of the world's leading natural history museums, is the scientific find of a lifetime - a perfectly fossilized early primate, older than the previously most famous primate fossil, Lucy, by forty-four million years. A secret until now, the fossil - Ida to the researchers who have painstakingly verified her provenance - is the most complete primate fossil ever found. Forty-seven million years old, Ida rewrites what we've assumed about the earliest primate origins. Her completeness is unparalleled - so much of what we understand about evolution comes from partial fossils and even single bones, but Ida's fossilization offers much more than that, from a haunting skin shadow to her stomach contents. And, remarkably, knowledge of her discovery and existence almost never saw the light of day. With exclusive access to the first scientists to study her, the award-winning science writer Colin Tudge tells the history of Ida and her place in the world. A magnificent, cutting-edge scientific detective story followed her discovery, and TheLink offers a wide-ranging investigation into Ida and our earliest origins. At the same time, it opens a stunningly evocative window into our past and changes what we know about primate evolution and, ultimately, our own.

About the Author

Colin Tudge

Product Details

ISBN:
9780316070089
Subtitle:
Uncovering Our Earliest Ancestor
Author:
Colin Tudge and Josh Young
With:
Young, Josh
Contributor:
Young, Josh
Author:
Tudge, Colin
Author:
Young, Josh
Publisher:
Back Bay Books
Subject:
General
Subject:
Human evolution
Subject:
Evolution (Biology)
Subject:
Life Sciences - Evolution - Human
Subject:
Paleontology
Subject:
Developmental Biology
Copyright:
Publication Date:
20100811
Binding:
Hardcover
Language:
English
Illustrations:
Y
Pages:
272
Dimensions:
9 x 5.75 x 1 in 0.83 lb

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Related Subjects


History and Social Science » Anthropology » General
Science and Mathematics » Biology » Evolution
Science and Mathematics » Biology » General
Science and Mathematics » Featured Titles in Tech » General
Science and Mathematics » Geology » Paleontology

The Link: Uncovering Our Earliest Ancestor New Hardcover
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$17.41 In Stock
Product details 272 pages Little Brown and Company - English 9780316070089 Reviews:
"Review A Day" by , "The Link begins by painting a highly anthropomorphized portrait of Ida as a "petite being" no more than "two feet tall" bearing "opposable thumbs." This depiction is intended to heighten the drama of poor Ida's untimely demise (she was less than a year old)....The possibility that Ida might be our distant ancestor is what set in motion the high-octane public relations machine of which The Link is but one cog. " (read the entire American Scientist review)
"Synopsis" by , For more than a century, scientists have raced to unravel the human family tree and have grappled with its complications. Now, with an astonishing new discovery, everything we thought we knew about primate origins could change. Lying inside a high-security vault, deep within the heart of one of the world's leading natural history museums, is the scientific find of a lifetime - a perfectly fossilized early primate, older than the previously most famous primate fossil, Lucy, by forty-four million years. A secret until now, the fossil - Ida to the researchers who have painstakingly verified her provenance - is the most complete primate fossil ever found. Forty-seven million years old, Ida rewrites what we've assumed about the earliest primate origins. Her completeness is unparalleled - so much of what we understand about evolution comes from partial fossils and even single bones, but Ida's fossilization offers much more than that, from a haunting skin shadow to her stomach contents. And, remarkably, knowledge of her discovery and existence almost never saw the light of day. With exclusive access to the first scientists to study her, the award-winning science writer Colin Tudge tells the history of Ida and her place in the world. A magnificent, cutting-edge scientific detective story followed her discovery, and TheLink offers a wide-ranging investigation into Ida and our earliest origins. At the same time, it opens a stunningly evocative window into our past and changes what we know about primate evolution and, ultimately, our own.
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