Monday, September 27, 2010

monkey, monkey, where for art thou monkey

Iyad Zalmout was born in Syria. He developed a love for geology growing up in the mountains collecting fossil gastropods and bivalves to show his friends - this later morphed into collecting lizards and snakes to scare his class mates. Iyad completed his PhD at the University of Michgan with Phil Gingrich on "Late Eocene sea cows (Mammalia, Sirenia) from Wadi al Hitan in the Fayum Basin, Egypt" and has stayed as a Post-doc in the Exhibit Museum.

A year ago Iyad was looking for whale fossils in a presumed to be section of marine sediments when he began to discover terrestrial mammal fossils. He was amazed to discover what is problably the last common ancestor of apes and monkeys before the two lineages separated. With a major discovery like this, press releases were made both by the publishing journal Nature and the University of Michigan. The reading this week will be the paper published in Nature.

Slide show of the primate fossils
Nature Video


  1. I'm interested to see how well Ilyad can keep this lecture from going over my head. That Nature article was heavy on the taxonomical names to the point I found it cumbersome to read. Can we have a simpler explanation of the morphological uniqueness of this find?

  2. This sounds really exciting! I am looking forward to Iyad's talk. It baffles me that they were able to find this fossil when just walking around. It's so strange to think about ancient fossils from millions of years ago just hanging around waiting for someone to find them. It's also incredible to think about primates living 29 million years ago.

    I also agree with James, I hope I am able to understand what Iyad has to say!

  3. This subject is very interesting and I was excited to hear what he would say but unfortunately a lot of things went over my head. His slides and presentation were hard to follow and overall I thought he was speaking to people that were already very knowledgeable in the subject. Other than that I am definitely excited to see what he will uncover as he continues to research this skull.

  4. I have to agree with just about everything Michelle had to say. I thought the first 1/3rd of the presentation was good and easy to follow (the background on the specific trip and the find), but not all that "scientific." When we got to the actual academic portion of the presentation there was a ton of complex jargon which I couldn't follow. Quite a few of his pictures were interesting, but I don't feel like I really got as much out of them as intended.

  5. I could follow the first half of the presentation pretty well, and the pictures and information Iyad presented about his expedition were interesting. But towards the latter half the terms he was using got too technical for me - it did become hard to follow. I did however get a feel of the impact/significance of his discovery.

  6. This presentation was very interesting. After reviewing some of the information on Iyad's findings again, in addition to information from later presentations, I wonder how much did the critical zone play in the fossils' preserving and perhaps warping.