Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Interview with the Missing Link


By Dan Tynan

Earlier this week, researchers rocked the world with news of the elusive “missing link.” A 47-million-year-old fossil named Darwinius masillae -- informally known as “Ida” -- has been declared the long-sought cross between the lemur and ape branches of the evolutionary tree, solidifying Darwin's theories. But Ida's discovery is not without controversy, and may ultimately raise more questions than it answers.

I managed to secure an exclusive interview with Ida via her publicist, shortly after her story was revealed. Here's what she had to say.

How does it feel to be declared the missing link?

It's really a mixed blessing. I'm mean, obviously I'm flattered. It isn't every day people hail you as proof of probably the most controversial theory to ever hit science. But after spending 47 million years at the bottom of a bog the attention is a little overwhelming. Thank God I agreed to that media training or I'd be in totally over my head.

I must say for a 47-million-year-old you look exceedingly well preserved.

Thank you. Moisturizing is really key. Also eating right. While it's a little embarrassing to have the contents of your stomach analyzed, there's something to be said for a diet of leaves, fruits, and seeds.

What's been the reaction so far?

I knew my coming out would be big news, but I never really expected this. I mean, a book? A TV special? I've already got my own Wikipedia page and two groups on Facebook. My agent is talking to Oprah's people right now, so that's also a possibility.

Personally, I really never thought my short limbs and fingernails were all that special – they're simply a part of who I am. It was Jorn – my paleontologist, Jorn Hurum – who convinced me I had it takes to fill the gap in the evolutionary chain between apes and lemurs. “Star power,” is what he called it. Really that kind of talk just embarrasses me. At heart I'm just a simple four-limbed primate with opposable thumbs.

Surely not everyone is happy with your sudden appearance.

No kidding. The hate mail has already started pouring in. It's disconcerting to find out how many people really do believe the earth is only 6000 years old. I thought humanity would have evolved just a little bit more than that, you know? It seems natural selection was more selective than Darwin thought.

Listen, I expect a lot of conservative bloggers and anti-evolutionists to go digging into my private life. I fell into a mud pit when I was 9 months old. What kind of dirt do they think they're going to find? What really burns me is the reaction from some scientists. They're calling me a fraud and Jorn a charlatan. Personally, I just think they're jealous because he found me and they didn't. Can you say Nobel Prize? I think you can.

So what's next for the world's most famous fossil?

'I'm going to DisneyWorld.' Ka-ching! But seriously. I'd like to travel the world talking to children about the importance of a science education and also a little bit about personal hygiene. You really do need to take care of yourself. You may end up being around a lot longer than you'd planned.

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