A small fossilised skeleton, making her public debut 47 million years after she died, may prove to be the missing link – the common ancestor of the human race. About the size of a cat, the fossil has been named Darwinius masillae after the father of evolution theory, Charles Darwin. She’s nicknamed Ida, and may hold the key to how we got here.
“We are not dealing with our grand- grand- grandmother, but perhaps with our grand- grand- grand-aunt,” said Dr Jens Franzen from the Senckenberg Research Institute.
Ida was discovered in 1983 in an ancient dry lake in Germany, which has yielded many other important fossils. Archaeologists believe our human ancestors must have looked something like her.
“This skeleton is going to inform almost anything that we talk about in trying to determine the ancestor of higher primates,” said Dr Holly Smith from University of Michigan.
Ida fills a crucial gap in the study of human evolution because of a common bone in her ankle. She also had nails not claws, and most importantly an opposable thumb. Scientists say it is almost impossible to pinpoint exactly when humans appeared, but Ida is as good as it gets, so far.