Human evolution: Did we come from monkeys?

The short answer is Yes. Our ancestors evolved from monkeys into apes. We are apes and moneys just as we are mammals and vertebrates and deuterostomes and metazoans.

Thanks to FFreeThinker for making this informative video.

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“They’re so cute when they play Science Museum”

"Brothers under the fur"

Eamon Knight has a good article on what’s so funny about the Creation Museum near Cincinnati. According to Ken Ham’s bunch, following the evidence is “dogmatic.” Bwa-ha-ha! (That’s my evil laugh.) Read “They’re so cute when they play Science Museum“.

Baby pygmy marmoset on finger

Baby Marmoset on Finger, originally uploaded by balisane.

This is the cutest animal on the internets! A marmoset is a small monkey. But I had no idea they were so small!

Ah, these are pygmy marmosets, the smallest monkeys in the world. The photo of a monkey clinging to a finger is from the Everland Zoo and Theme Park in South Korea, which had a safari theme park in the 1970s.

The Lakes Aquarium, near Newby in the U.K., has baby twin marmosets. The babies spend most of their time riding on their father’s back. The father hands them over to their mother for nursing.

First transgenic primates

Four marmosets, whose parents were given a gene to create green fluorescence, have been born with the gene. That makes them the first artificially transgenic primates. `

transgenic-marmosets

The image shows These marmosets are the first transgenic primates. Here are the baby pictures of a: Hisui (Jade), b: Wakaba (Young Leaf), c: Banko, d: left, Kei; right, Kou. Insets show one of each baby’s paws (right) beside the paw of a nontransgenic marmoset under ultraviolet light. Except for Banko, the transgenic animals make green fluorescent protein in their skin.
(Image credit: E.Sasaki et al., 2009, in Nature)

New fossil: Darwinius masillae

A magnificent new fossil of an early primate has been found. The fossil includes a carbon film that shows hair surrounding the animal. The only way to preserve these is to slide them onto a flat slab and, basically, varnish it. It has been named Darwinius masillae.

Darwinius masillae

It got a lot of publicity. It’s not every fossil that gets introduced with its own magazine article, TV special show, and nickname (“Ida”). It also cost a lot of money. The authors noted

The specimen has an unusual history: it was privately collected and sold in two parts, with only the lesser part previously known. The second part, which has just come to light, shows the skeleton to be the most complete primate known in the fossil record.

However, it’s not the missing link in human evolution. As PZ Myers points out, it’s far too early. He has a good discussion about what’s important about it–and what it’s not:

  • This is the most complete primate fossil ever discovered, down to body outline, fur and stomach contents.
  • It’s old–47 million years, right after the split between the strepsirrhines (lemurs and lorises) and the haplorhines (monkeys and apes).
  • It has both adult and juvenile teeth, giving us information about both life stages.

The same article is on Panda’s Thumb–with lively commentary. PZ notes

When [Brian Switek at] Laelaps says, “I have the feeling that this fossil, while spectacular, is being oversold,” I think he’s being spectacularly understated. [At Evolving Thoughts, John] Wilkins also knocks down the whole “missing link” label…. Laelaps has some serious reservations about the analysis — the authors may not have done as solid a cladistic analysis as they should, and its position in the family tree may not be as clear as it has been made out to be.

Check out the paper: Franzen JL, Gingerich PD, Habersetzer J, Hurum JH, von Koenigswald W, Smith BH (2009) Complete Primate Skeleton from the Middle Eocene of Messel in Germany: Morphology and Paleobiology. PLoS ONE 4(5): e5723. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0005723.

Chimpanzee caches, and makes, throwing stones

A chimpanzee at the Furuvik Zoo has been observed collecting stones and leaving them in little piles to use later, for throwing at tourists. Ed Yong at Not Exactly Rocket Science has the story: “Chimpanzee collects ammo for ‘premeditated’ tourist-stoning.”

Even more interesting, when zookeepers removed the stones, the chimp, Santino, collected more and then began making them by breaking off chunks of concrete.

We already know that chimps were making stone tools 4,000 years ago.

Spain gives great apes limited human rights

gorilla-looking

I missed this when it happened. In June, Spain gave great apes the right to life and protects them from harmful research practices. Well, they approved a resolution to give great apes rights. It might be enacted by next June. The great apes are gorillas, orangutans, chimpanzees, and bonobos or dwarf chimpanzees.

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