It was difficult not to notice this week that there was quite a lot of media attention focused on an exciting new PLoS ONE article offering the first description of an amazing and beautiful fossil of Ida, the 47 million year old primate with the scientific name of Darwinius masillae: Complete Primate Skeleton from the Middle Eocene of Messel in Germany: Morphology and Paleobiology by Jens L. Franzen, Philip D. Gingerich, Jörg Habersetzer, Jørn H. Hurum, Wighart von Koenigswald and B. Holly Smith
The article was published on Tuesday morning at the same time as the unveiling of the fossil at a press conference at the American Museum of Natural History. The fossil now has its own website (disclaimer: PLoS is not responsible for this web site) where one can find more information and various multi-media and interactive features. At this point I would like to commend our Production staff – after the manuscript spent time in the peer-review and editorial acceptance process, they had only one week to prepare the article and the PDF for publication. Clearly it was in the public interest to have the paper available in time for the unveiling, and so they worked extra hard to make sure the scientific article was available to the scientific and lay audience at the same time as the media coverage begun.
As of the time of this writing, Google News located 1,148 articles about this fossil find.
The Guardian has published a number of articles about the fossil – an entire section – including the interview with the lead author in which, among else, he explains his choice of PLoS ONE as the venue for the publication:
Hurum said the main reason was to ensure that as many people as possible have the opportunity to read the paper. “I’m paid by the tax payers of Norway to do this research. I’m not paid by Nature or Science and still they charge money for other people to read my scientific results,” he says. “This fossil really is part of our history, truly a fossil that’s a world heritage. A find like this is something for all human kind.”
Other notable media coverage includes articles in The Los Angeles Times, The Chicago Tribune, The Boston Globe, Reuters, Associated Press, CNN, several articles on BBC, SKY News, The Times Online, The Telegraph, DailyMail, Cosmos Magazine, The Age, Nature, ScienceNOW, National Geographic, SEED Magazine and many others.
The news also spread over the social networking sites, especially on Twitter, with numerous messages about Ida, Darwinius, fossil, PLoS and, somewhat unfortunately, missing link. Ida herself now has a Twitter account – @IdaTheLink (which again, PLoS is not responsible for). The fossil was also discussed on FriendFeed and someone made a Facebook fan group. The article was slashdotted. Wikipedians were quick at putting together an informative Wikipedia page.
On Wednesday, the picture of the fossil was the logo on Google:
Continuing online, it is not surprising that the article was covered by numerous blogs. The blog coverage can be divided into several sub-categories depending on the aspect of the story:
Several bloggers were unhappy with the use of the term “missing link” in the media coverage and used their scientific expertise to explain why – check out the discussions on: Evolving Thoughts, Neurodojo, The Primate Diaries, I, Editor and A Developing Passion.
A number of bloggers, media analysts and traditional journalists analyzed the media coverage of the fossil, including: Matt Nisbett of Framing Science who wrote a series of posts about the media strategy; NY Times, Knight Science Journalism Tracker, KSJ Tracker again, Knight Science Journalism Tracker again, Science Insider, Neurodojo, it is NOT junk, Cubbi, The Daily Nightly, That Shallow Fellow, The Observatory, Columbia Journalism Review, Why Evolution is True, Ecographica, The Opinionator (a NYTimes blog), 60-Second Science Blog, Kevin Drum, Thoughts from Kansas, Dispatches from the Culture Wars, The Scientist, Sandwalk, On Research…, The Loom and Laelaps.
The extent of the media coverage also prompted some to respond with humor and satire: diarist Deoliver47 on DailyKos, Not Exactly Rocket Science (which has an image of Ida on toast!) and The Red Notebook (which has an image of Ida playing saxophone!)
For a little while, there was some confusion about the official recognition of the scientific name Darwinius masillae, but that was quickly cleared up – see the discussions at: The Loom, Fish matters, Lancelet, Why Evolution Is True, Chinleana, Chinleana, DinoGoss, The Loom, The Loom, Fish matters, The New Scientist and Guardian.
Finally, in the domain in which science blogs often have some advantage over more traditional journalism (detailed analysis of the science), a number of blog posts cover the science of the paper in great detail and lovely clarity: Laelaps, Pharyngula, The Loom, Panda’s Thumb, The Open Source Paleontologist, Evolving Thoughts, The Knowledge Emporium, Greg Laden, Observations of a Nerd, NGM Blog Central, microecos, A Primate of Modern Aspect and Laelaps.
Other blog coverage: Cryptozoology Online, Pound 360, Selling Tomorrows, The Evilutionary Biologist, Coffee and Sci(ence), Providence Daily Dose, Starts With a Bang, The Intersection, Pro-science, RichardDawkins.net, TED Blog, The Science Pundit, Coyote Crossing, Tom Paine’s Ghost, Migrations, Who Does John Gregson Think He Is?, A simple prop, Woo University, Ego sum Daniel, Erik Svensson Research Laboratory, Biology in Science Fiction, Hominin Dental Anthropology, Savage Minds, Cryptomundo, Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub, and many more still to come, we are quite sure!