Her name is Ida, she is three feet tall and if scientists are right, she could be a common ancestor of apes and monkeys - and you. Researchers yesterday revealed the beautifully preserved remains of the lemur-like creature who died in a lake 47million years ago.
Scientists claim she is an important 'missing link' in mankind's family tree and will shed light on a crucial part of evolution
Missing link? Ida, the 47-million-year-old fossil that could change the way we understand human evolution
She is so perfectly fossilised, it is possible to see the outline of her fur in the rock.
Ida was discovered in 1983 in a fossil treasure trove called the Messel Pit in Germany, but the collector who put her on his wall had no idea of her significance.
In 2006 a dealer brought Ida to the attention of Dr Jorn Hurum of the University of Oslo Natural History
Ida is so perfectly preserved that there are still traces of her last meal in her stomach - and outlines of her fur can be seen etched into the stone
The lemur's skeleton shows distinct physical characteristics of human beings, such as opposable thumbs - or hands that can grasp things
Dr Hurum said the fossil - named after his daughter - 'is the first link to all humans' and 'truly a fossil that links world heritage'.
Dr Jens Franzen, another of the researchers, described Ida as 'like the Eighth Wonder of the World' because of the extraordinary completeness of the skeleton.
He said that rather than being a direct ancestor like a grandmother - she was more likely to be an 'aunt'.
'She belongs to the group from which higher primates
An X-ray of Ida's teeth. She still had not shed all her baby (deciduous) teeth when she died. Scientists believe she was only about nine months old
CT images of Ida's entire skull, including her jaw and teeth, seen in greater detail above
Ida, who will be exhibited at the Natural History Museum in London on Tuesday, is 20 times older than most known fossils that can shed light on human evolution.
She comes from a time when the primate family tree was splitting into two groups - one with humans, apes and monkeys, the other with lemurs and bush babies.
Her forward-facing eyes are like human eyes and she has human-like thumbs.
The team concluded that she is a new species they have called Darwinius masillae, to mark the bicentenary of Charles Darwin's birth
The two halves of Ida: The skeleton was split in half on its discovery in 1983, with the two parts going to different collections
Sir David Attenborough, who will present a BBC documentary on the discovery next Tuesday, said: 'The link they would have said until now is missing, is no longer missing.'
But others are more cautious. Dr Henry Gee, a senior editor at the journal Nature, said the use of the term 'missing link' was misleading.
And Dr Chris Beard, of America's Carnegie Museum of Natural History, said: 'I would be absolutely dumbfounded if it turns out to be a potential ancestor to humans.'
You need to be a member of CaribbeanFever / FeverEyes / CaribFever to add comments!
Join CaribbeanFever / FeverEyes / CaribFever