Google's "Doodle logo" was a bit of a surprise today, given that it wasn't an immediate reminder for a national holiday or event. Clicking it, takes one to this page from the National Geographic:
In a new book, documentary, and promotional Web site, paleontologist Jorn Hurum, who led the team that analyzed the 47-million-year-old fossil seen above, suggests Ida is a critical missing-link species in primate evolution (interactive guide to human evolution from National Geographic magazine).
(Among the team members was University of Michigan paleontologist Philip Gingerich, a member of the Committee for Research and Exploration of the National Geographic Society, which owns National Geographic News.)
The fossil, he says, bridges the evolutionary split between higher primates such as monkeys, apes, and humans and their more distant relatives such as lemurs.
"This is the first link to all humans," Hurum, of the Natural History Museum in Oslo, Norway, said in a statement. Ida represents "the closest thing we can get to a direct ancestor."
Pretty cool stuff indeed, and the article goes on to provide a lot more detail on the find and it's implications. Most surprising though was this obvious question at the very end of the piece:
"What's more, the newly described "missing link" was found in Germany's Messel Pit. Ida's European origins are intriguing, Richmond said, because they could suggest—contrary to common assumptions—that the continent was an important area for primate evolution."
It'll be interesting to see where this line of research goes, shedding light on where humans really did come from.