Conclusive new evidence of a theory that was laughable 10 years ago

Meet "Ida," the small "missing link" found in Germany that's created a big media splash and will likely continue to make waves among those who study human origins.

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."

Ida, properly known as Darwinius masillae, has a unique anatomy. The lemur-like skeleton features primate-like characteristics, including grasping hands, opposable thumbs, clawless digits with nails, and relatively short limbs.

"This specimen looks like a really early fossil monkey that belongs to the group that includes us," said Brian Richmond, a biological anthropologist at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., who was not involved in the study, published this week in the journal PLoS ONE.
This "first link to all humans" isn't the line that "evolutionary theory" was so big on just a few years ago. Specifically, the Nitpicker's Guide to Next Generation Trekkers II describes the TNG episode "Genesis":
Barclay turns into a spider, and Data claims Picard is on his way to becoming a lemur or pygmy marmoset.
According to the evolutionary theory, the ancestors of Homo sapiens do not include arachnids, lemurs, or marmosets.
So, er, which one is it?