05-10-2009, 07:02 AM
Join Date: Mar 2008
Thanked 141 Times in 96 Posts
The complete fossil skeleton of what could be an important "missing link" in the story of human evolution is the centrepiece of a new BBC documentary hosted by David Attenborough.
Attenborough, who would not comment on the top secret documentary, reportedly reveals the well-preserved frame of the small monkey-like creature on the show.
The fossilised animal, thought to be at least 37 million years old, is a member of the extinct adapid family, and was discovered in a disused quarry in Germany.
Similar in appearance to modern lemurs, the young female creature has certain key differences which convinced researchers they have found the link to modern apes.
Unlike lemurs, it has no "toothcomb" teeth for grooming or "toilet claws" for scratching, two omissions which make it more likely to be ancestral to monkeys, higher apes and ultimately humans.
The fossil is reportedly so well preserved that some of its soft tissues such as skin and even its stomach contents can be examined.
British newspaper The Daily Mail, reports that the documentary is based on research done by the Public Library of Science, a non-profit scientific publisher.
"We have kept it under wraps because you can't blither about something until you understand it," study co-author Philip Gingerich said.
"We now understand it - it's going to advance our knowledge of evolution."
The fossil of the creature, named Darwinus masillae in scientific literature, was discovered in two parts at different times.
Until the second part was discovered last year and the halves united by Norwegian scientists, the significance of the fossil went unnoticed.
More details about the BBC documentary will be revealed later this month
...just thought that this was very cool. One more nail in the creationists coffin?