A Blog by Ed Yong

Darwinius changes everything

Darwinius-on-toastYesterday, the entire world changed noticeably as the media, accompanied by some scientists, unveiled a stunning fossilised primate. The creature has been named Darwinius masillae, but also goes by Ida, the Link, the Chosen One and She Who Will Save Us All.

The new fossil is remarkably complete and well-preserved, although the media glossed over these facts in favour of the creature’s ability to cure swine flu. Ida was hailed as a “missing link” in human evolution, beautifully illustrating our transition from leaping about in trees to rampant mass-media sensationalism.

Speaking to a group of international reporters, the scientists who discovered Ida described the animal in painstaking detail to the sound of Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries played from 50-foot speakers. As a barrage of fireworks launched in the background, one journalist said, “The release of 30 doves just at the right moment really helped to drive home the unique paleoecological perspective that Ida provides.”

Evolutionary biologist Stephen Wilton added, “Ida has been waiting for us for 47 million years so I’m grateful that the publication of the paper wasn’t rushed and that the whole thing didn’t turn into some sort of media circus. You never know when that might happen.”

Businesses around the world are also hoping that demand for Ida merchandise will stimulate an ailing global economy out of recession. Retailer Bud Hornblower said, “We’re seeing a massive spike in demand for fainting couches as ordinary lay people fail to cope with the total change brought on by this small, weird-lookin’ monkey thing.”

Scientists and people who actually know a thing or two about evolution warned of hype and exaggeration but were forced to abandon their reason and critical analysis in the face of incontrovertible speculation that Ida could convert base metals into gold and has already led to the invention of flying cars.

“I didn’t believe it at first,” said Professor Adam Templesmith from the University of Slough. “When I read the press release about a fossil that would change everything, I naturally assumed that it was some sort of poorly conceived and overly exaggerated PR claim. But now that the total reversal of climate change is underway, I’m forced to reconsider my prejudices.”

Already the star of her own website, book and documentary, little Ida will soon have her own action figure, underwear range, three-album deal and seat in Parliament. “Ida’s brand is a hot as Obama’s right now,” said Don Chumleigh, market analyst. “I’m just sad that her fossilised hand isn’t doing that fist-bump thing.”

Recreated through CGI, Ida is also set to play a pivotal role in the climax of the new Harry Potter film, where she will be voiced by Keira Knightley and wield a powerful ‘Changus Totalus’ spell. Special effects will also be used to insert Ida into previous seasons of the Wire and past G8 summits.

Around the world, signs that everything has changed have already begun to appear. Jeanette Gould from Stoke-on-Trent was shocked to discover the outline of Darwinius emblazoned on her morning toast. “Well, it ruined breakfast,” said Ms Gould, failing to appreciate the detail of the creature’s stomach contents outlined in bread crumbs. “I couldn’t very well spread raspberry jam over the direct ancestor of my children, could I?”

For actual details about Ida, look no further than excellent takes from Brian Switek, PZ and Carl Zimmer. Brian in particular has serious reservations about the paper itself. I’m too weary to tackle it.

71 thoughts on “Darwinius changes everything

  1. I just can’t make up my mind: Should Ida toast be served with Jesus toast or Blessed Virgin Toast? (One doesn’t want to make a mistake with holy breakfast manifestations.)

  2. Nicely written – but what would newspapers and journalists do if they didn’t sensationalize everything?

  3. One Darwinius masillae to rule them all,
    One Darwinius to find them.
    One Darwinius to bring them all
    And in the P.R. bind them.

  4. “Well, it ruined breakfast,” said Ms Gould, failing to appreciate the detail of the creature’s stomach contents outlined in bread crumbs. “I couldn’t very well spread raspberry jam over the direct ancestor of my children, could I?”

    Ms Gould is mistaken; Ida died much too young to have borne offspring, so there can be no possible direct line from Ida to Ms Gould’s sprogs.
    Oh, and John… isn’t it rather the Primate Who Died?

  5. Mr Yong, this was the first time I’ve heard of you (thanks to link from PZ Myers).
    That piece ranks up there with Mark Twain and H. L. Mencken. Thank you!

  6. Ida cured my herpes and regrew my amputated leg! She’s a miracle, and clearly beyond the scope of mere science. She’s a veritable sphinx, the gatekeeper of another realm, bigger and more fantastic than this life, where people live forever in bliss and children frolic in butterscotch waterfalls.

  7. Look at me way down here!
    You wouldn’t be auditioning for your favourite news source would you?
    Great post Ed, from someone who didn’t just get here from a PZ link. And you Myerites don’t mess the place up while you’re here.

  8. Last night, Ida came to me in a dream. She told me to go forth into the woods and eat leaves and fruits, and to pick bugs off my spouse and eat them.
    Great post. A complete skeleton with soft tissue remains from a 47 million year old mamal… naw, that would never sell. Better call it the Salvation of Darwin Kind.

  9. Great post Ed, from someone who did just get here from a PZ link. I can assure you that this “Myerite” will not mess up the place. Despite Pete the well meaning fool/king of bizarre analogies Rooke’s characterization, most of us are well behaved.

  10. Pure gold, Ed! I came over as a visitor from PZ’s, but the bookmark’s duly installed, and I’ll be a regular in future.

  11. On All Hallows’ Eve, when you look into a mirror and say Darwinius three times you gain a random superpower from a hero of the X-Man series.

  12. The ailing American auto industry has plans to unveil a revolutionary new vehicle dubbed the Ida, which they hope will reverse the slump in sales. The all-terrain Ida will be larger than the Hummer, get 15 miles per gallon, and will cost a mere $72,000. But it will have all-new “evolutionary” cupholders, “Hard Rock” suspension, “Raptor Claw” wheel covers, plus sporty feral-looking “Predator” headlights. It will also come in three “Thunder Lizard” color schemes originated by an award-winning Parisian designer.

  13. How long do you think it will take before nude pictures of Ida start showing up on USENET newsgroups? And is it true that Ida has been signed to appear on “Dancing with the Stars” next season?

  14. This was Stephen Fry worthy drumming!!!
    I can barely write through my tears of laughter.
    I can’t eve pick a quote it is ALL so inspired.
    This text has my vote to be included in the next unmanned spaceship to go beyound the solar system.

  15. I was going to blockquote some of my favourite bits of your blog post here, and then write things like ‘*snorts*’ and ‘*chortle*’ after each one, but then I realised I was going to end up blockquoting every single paragraph so I gave up.

  16. All in all an insightful, fact-filled post, putting the recent discovery into its proper perspective, but I’m afraid I must pick a small nit.
    I was shocked to see that Ida’s cameo appearance in the recent Star Trek movie passed completely unremarked.
    Now, off to Pharyngula. I promise to take my mess with me. (Howdy, Pete.)

  17. I don’t usually comment, but I’m so indescribably delighted that I have to express gratitude.
    So… thank you! The influence this piece has had on me, is second only to Ida.
    Lastly, I assume everyone has seen the homage paid by google?

  18. Giggle. Nice one.
    Another via PZ, but this time only because I hadn’t reached your feed in my reader yet.
    Oh and re: Pete cRooke, I echo Patricia’s sentiment.

  19. Muahahahaha.
    So when will they discover the remains of Hera Agathon? Surely that will presage some truly miraculous shit (like, possibly, the mainstream media doing some decent science reporting for a change).
    Oh, and I share the sentiments of Patricia @ #41 regarding both Ed’s post and Mr Rooke.

  20. Yes, but will Ida solve the economic crisis? Of course! As an evolutionary missing link she can travel through time and alter the course of human history so that it never happened.

  21. To say that Ida “Lived” is a little presumptive. Presumably with its Lemurical appearance it most likely had an arborial existence. So come on, would you like to have to eat berries and insects and sleep in a tree? What kind of life is that, you can hardly call that “Living”
    Ida the missing link? She missed the bloody point i think!

  22. I wonder if I can get “revealing the link” to enter common parlance as the sci-comms equivalent of “jumping the shark” or “nuking the fridge”. Hmmm…
    Anyway, welcome all, loyal readers and incoming Pharyngulites alike. Everyone make yourselves comfy.

  23. I stumbled through the news today and this article came up. At the end of the first paragraph, you had me. I totally believed it. Why? Because it made sense that, after watching Ida’s unveiling that I must have been listening too hard, cause I missed the real significance of the find?
    But that caused me to read the entire article and I loved it. Now, after countless failed attempts, I was able to take a snake, put it in a roller coaster, and expected it to bake me a cake. Thanks Ida!

  24. About as good as it gets, fantastic find, bizarre story, hyperhype, smackdown, real science and hilarious satire.

  25. “She Who Will Save Us All.” Hmm. Was she found lying in the shadow of the statue on a time-traveling island with strange electromagnetic properties?

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