47M-Year-Old Fossil Evolutionary 'Aunt' to Humans

By Harry Kimball,  Newser Staff
Posted May 19, 2009 4:00 PM CDT
The 47-million-year-old fossilized remains of a creature about the size of a small cat.   (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – Scientists have discovered the oldest intact primate fossil on record, ABC News reports. Nicknamed “Ida,” the 47-million-year-old lemur-like creature had opposable thumbs, fingernails instead of claws, and legs that could have evolved to walk upright. Scientists don’t think Ida is a direct ancestor of humans, though. “We are not dealing with our grand, grand grandmother,” one said, “but perhaps with our grand, grand, grand aunt.”

The producer of a documentary accompanying the announcement described the find with more florid language. “In this time of economic hardship,” he said, “it is nice to turn to another time, 47 million years ago, to the story of a little girl, who possibly connects to us.” The fossil was discovered in Germany in 1983, but it wasn’t until the scientists examined it 2 years ago that its true significance became clear.