The earth 47m years ago was an extraordinary place, not least the deadly Messel pitThe world in which Ida lived was a critical time in primate evolution, but all around her was a riot of evolutionary experimentation by other mammal groups. It was a through-the-looking glass world of half-familiar, half-bizarre beasts with Mr Potato Head combinations of characteristics such as pygmy horses and rodents with trunks – and many of them were soon to die out.A naturalist transported back in time would have found wandering through the steamy, sub-tropical jungle that Ida inhabited 47m years ago a deeply strange experience, says Jørn Hurum at the University of Oslo, the scientist who saved the Ida specimen for science. "There are some weirdos, but there are some things you would recognise," he says."It is a wonderful situation because you have all these paleocene mammals, these old-timers from the beginning of the...
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