Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Our concestor Ida

Like countless Earth-dwellers, I was moved by the fabulously beautiful image of our concestor Ida.

Even Google got into the act immediately, which proves (if need be) that the discovery and presentation of the fossil is a cosmic happening:

The term "concestor" was introduced into the terminology of tribal history (or genealogy, if you prefer) by Richard Dawkins in his monumental The Ancestor's Tale. It stands for "the (latest) common ancestor". For example, when a Skyvington in Choranche encounters, say, an individual named Skivington over in Canada, it's quite possible that their concestor was a 17th-century farmer named George over in Dorset, England. Researchers concerned with individuals X and Y are interested, above all, in identifying the latest concestor: that's to say, the common ancestor whose offspring split into two forever-separate lines, one of which ended up producing X, and the other, Y.

Juvenile Ida ("lovely Laura in her light green dress") looks a little like a modern lemur:

Let's say that 47-million-year-old Ida was almost a lemur... like our human ancestors, for that matter. But certain telltale features reveal that Ida had jumped onto the human, rather than the lemur, band wagon. She was surely one of us: an ancient member of our human tribe. Welcome aboard, Ida!

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