on 31 May 2009
Colin Tudge is a very good writer, and he has a knack for making difficult material understandable. "The Link" is a passionate story about the discovery and potential significance of Ida, a 47 million year old fossil of an athropoid-like (or possibly lemur-like) animal. Although Ida's remains have been crushed as flat "as a German beer mat," the skeleton is nearly complete and the fossil imprint shows an outline of her fur and soft tissues, as well as the remains of her last meal. Nearly intact fossils of this type are extraordinarily rare, particularly from the Eocene. Tudge skillfully explains the likely circumstances of Ida's death and how her body came to be preserved at the bottom of a volcanic crater lake that eventually became the Messel Pit in modern Germany. He also skillfully and clearly explains why the world has been growing steadily cooler since the Eocene--it has to do with the "Azolla Event," the rise of the Himalayas following India's tectonic collision with Asia, and Milancovic cycles (Tudge lays out the basics in "The Link" but explores the concepts in more detail in his "Time Before History").
He also does a good job of describing the flora and fauna of the Eocene, a hothouse period in which the world was filled with many familiar animals, as well as many other that have long-since gone extinct. Unfortunately, although the book includes many photographs of Ida's fossilized remains and even a three-dimensional recreation of her skeleton, the American edition offers no artist's impressions of Ida or the animals that she shared her world with. Artist renderings would have greatly enhanced Tudge's descriptions of some very interesting beasts.
While "The Link" is generally well written, it does bog down in technical language from time to time, for example: "Next, reaching their peak in the Eocene, we have the adapiforms on the one hand and the omomyids on the other (where the omomyids are presumed to include the microchoerids)" (p. 205). Although I have often made this same point vehemently--indeed, even violently--at cocktail parties, I must admit that this observation looks surprisingly dry now that I see it in print.
on 24 November 2012
This is the story of "Ida" a 47 million year old primate considered by some to be the precursor of man and apes.Found in the Messel Pit, Germany during 1982 ,by a private collector, was sold in 2007 to the Natural History Museum in Oslo.
43 million years older than "Lucy" the previously oldest known primate "Ida" created a new meaning to our evolution.
The author describes the discovery,the Eocene world in which "Ida" lived,primate evolution and who and what "Ida" was.
A first class read with reasonable pictures.