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Claim CC200:

There are no transitional fossils. Evolution predicts a continuum between each fossil organism and its ancestors. Instead, we see systematic gaps in the fossil record.


Morris, Henry M. 1985. Scientific Creationism. Green Forest, AR: Master Books, pp. 78-90.
Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. 1985. Life--How Did It Get Here? Brooklyn, NY, pp. 57-59.


  1. There are many transitional fossils. The only way that the claim of their absence may be remotely justified, aside from ignoring the evidence completely, is to redefine "transitional" as referring to a fossil that is a direct ancestor of one organism and a direct descendant of another. However, direct lineages are not required; they could not be verified even if found. What a transitional fossil is, in keeping with what the theory of evolution predicts, is a fossil that shows a mosaic of features from an older and more recent organism.

  2. Transitional fossils may coexist with gaps. We do not expect to find finely detailed sequences of fossils lasting for millions of years. Nevertheless, we do find several fine gradations of fossils between species and genera, and we find many other sequences between higher taxa that are still very well filled out.

    The following are fossil transitions between species and genera:

    1. Human ancestry. There are many fossils of human ancestors, and the differences between species are so gradual that it is not always clear where to draw the lines between them.

    2. The horns of titanotheres (extinct Cenozoic mammals) appear in progressively larger sizes, from nothing to prominence. Other head and neck features also evolved. These features are adaptations for head-on ramming analogous to sheep behavior (Stanley 1974).

    3. A gradual transitional fossil sequence connects the foraminifera Globigerinoides trilobus and Orbulina universa (Pearson et al. 1997). O. universa, the later fossil, features a spherical test surrounding a "Globigerinoides-like" shell, showing that a feature was added, not lost. The evidence is seen in all major tropical ocean basins. Several intermediate morphospecies connect the two species, as may be seen in the figure included in Lindsay (1997).

    4. The fossil record shows transitions between species of Phacops (a trilobite; Phacops rana is the Pennsylvania state fossil; Eldredge 1972; 1974; Strapple 1978).

    5. Planktonic forminifera (Malmgren et al. 1984). This is an example of punctuated gradualism. A ten-million-year foraminifera fossil record shows long periods of stasis and other periods of relatively rapid but still gradual morphologic change.

    6. Fossils of the diatom Rhizosolenia are very common (they are mined as diatomaceous earth), and they show a continuous record of almost two million years which includes a record of a speciation event (Miller 1999, 44-45).

    7. Lake Turkana mollusc species (Lewin 1981).

    8. Cenozoic marine ostracodes (Cronin 1985).

    9. The Eocene primate genus Cantius (Gingerich 1976, 1980, 1983).

    10. Scallops of the genus Chesapecten show gradual change in one "ear" of their hinge over about 13 million years. The ribs also change (Pojeta and Springer 2001; Ward and Blackwelder 1975).

    11. Gryphaea (coiled oysters) become larger and broader but thinner and flatter during the Early Jurassic (Hallam 1968).

    The following are fossil transitionals between families, orders, and classes:

    1. Human ancestry. Australopithecus, though its leg and pelvis bones show it walked upright, had a bony ridge on the forearm, probably vestigial, indicative of knuckle walking (Richmond and Strait 2000).

    2. Dinosaur-bird transitions.

    3. Haasiophis terrasanctus is a primitive marine snake with well-developed hind limbs. Although other limbless snakes might be more ancestral, this fossil shows a relationship of snakes with limbed ancestors (Tchernov et al. 2000). Pachyrhachis is another snake with legs that is related to Haasiophis (Caldwell and Lee 1997).

    4. The jaws of mososaurs are also intermediate between snakes and lizards. Like the snake's stretchable jaws, they have highly flexible lower jaws, but unlike snakes, they do not have highly flexible upper jaws. Some other skull features of mososaurs are intermediate between snakes and primitive lizards (Caldwell and Lee 1997; Lee et al. 1999; Tchernov et al. 2000).

    5. Transitions between mesonychids and whales.

    6. Transitions between fish and tetrapods.

    7. Transitions from condylarths (a kind of land mammal) to fully aquatic modern manatees. In particular, Pezosiren portelli is clearly a sirenian, but its hind limbs and pelvis are unreduced (Domning 2001a, 2001b).

    8. Runcaria, a Middle Devonian plant, was a precursor to seed plants. It had all the qualities of seeds except a solid seed coat and a system to guide pollen to the seed (Gerrienne et al. 2004).

    9. A bee, Melittosphex burmensis, from Early Cretaceous amber, has primitive characteristics expected from a transition between crabronid wasps and extant bees (Poinar and Danforth 2006).

    The following are fossil transitionals between kingdoms and phyla:

    1. The Cambrian fossils Halkiera and Wiwaxia have features that connect them with each other and with the modern phyla of Mollusca, Brachiopoda, and Annelida. In particular, one species of halkieriid has brachiopod-like shells on the dorsal side at each end. This is seen also in an immature stage of the living brachiopod species Neocrania. It has setae identical in structure to polychaetes, a group of annelids. Wiwaxia and Halkiera have the same basic arrangement of hollow sclerites, an arrangement that is similar to the chaetae arrangement of polychaetes. The undersurface of Wiwaxia has a soft sole like a mollusk's foot, and its jaw looks like a mollusk's mouth. Aplacophorans, which are a group of primitive mollusks, have a soft body covered with spicules similar to the sclerites of Wiwaxia (Conway Morris 1998, 185-195).

    2. Cambrian and Precambrain fossils Anomalocaris and Opabinia are transitional between arthropods and lobopods.

    3. An ancestral echinoderm has been found that is intermediate between modern echinoderms and other deuterostomes (Shu et al. 2004).


Hunt, Kathleen. 1994-1997. Transitional vertebrate fossils FAQ.

Miller, Keith B. n.d. Taxonomy, transitional forms, and the fossil record.

Patterson, Bob. 2002. Transitional fossil species and modes of speciation.

Thompson, Tim. 1999. On creation science and transitional fossils.


  1. Caldwell, M. W. and M. S. Y. Lee, 1997. A snake with legs from the marine Cretaceous of the Middle East. Nature 386: 705-709.
  2. Conway Morris, Simon, 1998. The Crucible of Creation, Oxford University Press.
  3. Cronin, T. M., 1985. Speciation and stasis in marine ostracoda: climatic modulation of evolution. Science 227: 60-63.
  4. Domning, Daryl P., 2001a. The earliest known fully quadupedal sirenian. Nature 413: 625-627.
  5. Domning, Daryl P., 2001b. New "intermediate form" ties seacows firmly to land. Reports of the National Center for Science Education 21(5-6): 38-42.
  6. Eldredge, Niles, 1972. Systematics and evolution of Phacops rana (Green, 1832) and Phacops iowensis Delo, 1935 (Trilobita) from the Middle Devonian of North America. Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History 147(2): 45-114.
  7. Eldredge, Niles, 1974. Stability, diversity, and speciation in Paleozoic epeiric seas. Journal of Paleontology 48(3): 540-548.
  8. Gerrienne, P. et al. 2004. Runcaria, a Middle Devonian seed plant precursor. Science 306: 856-858.
  9. Gingerich, P. D., 1976. Paleontology and phylogeny: Patterns of evolution of the species level in early Tertiary mammals. American Journal of Science 276(1): 1-28.
  10. Gingerich, P. D., 1980. Evolutionary patterns in early Cenozoic mammals. Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences 8: 407-424.
  11. Gingerich, P. D., 1983. Evidence for evolution from the vertebrate fossil record. Journal of Geological Education 31: 140-144.
  12. Hallam, A., 1968. Morphology, palaeoecology and evolution of the genus Gryphaea in the British Lias. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London B 254: 91-128.
  13. Lee, Michael S. Y., Gorden L. Bell Jr. and Michael W. Caldwell, 1999. The origin of snake feeding. Nature 400: 655-659.
  14. Lewin, R., 1981. No gap here in the fossil record. Science 214: 645-646.
  15. Lindsay, Don, 1997. A smooth fossil transition: Orbulina, a foram.
  16. Malmgren, B. A., W. A. Berggren and G. P. Lohmann, 1984. Species formation through punctuated gradualism in planktonic foraminifera. Science 225: 317-319.
  17. Miller, Kenneth R., 1999. Finding Darwin's God. New York: HarperCollins.
  18. Pearson, P. N., N. J. Shackleton and M. A. Hall. 1997. Stable isotopic evidence for the sympatric divergence of Globigerinoides trilobus and Orbulina universa (planktonic foraminifera). Journal of the Geological Society, London 154: 295-302.
  19. Poinar, G. O. Jr. and B. N. Danforth. 2006. A fossil bee from Early Cretaceous Burmese amber. Science 314: 614.
  20. Richmond B. G. and D. S. Strait, 2000. Evidence that humans evolved from a knuckle-walking ancestor. Nature 404: 382-385. See also Collard, M. and L. C. Aiello, 2000. From forelimbs to two legs. Nature 404: 339-340.
  21. Shu, D.-G. et al., 2004. Ancestral echinoderms from the Chengjiang deposits of China. Nature 430: 422-428.
  22. Stanley, Steven M., 1974. Relative growth of the titanothere horn: A new approach to an old problem. Evolution 28: 447-457.
  23. Strapple, R. R., 1978. Tracing three trilobites. Earth Science 31(4): 149-152.
  24. Tchernov, E. et al., 2000. A fossil snake with limbs. Science 287: 2010-2012. See also Greene, H. W. and D. Cundall, 2000. Limbless tetrapods and snakes with legs. Science 287: 1939-1941.
  25. Ward, L. W. and B. W. Blackwelder, 1975. Chesapecten, A new genus of Pectinidae (Mollusca: Bivalvia) from the Miocene and Pliocene of eastern North America. U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 861.

Further Reading:

Cohn, Martin J. and Cheryll Tickle. 1999. Developmental basis of limblessness and axial patterning in snakes. Nature 399: 474-479. (technical)

Cuffey, Clifford A. 2001. The fossil record: Evolution or "scientific creation". or

Elsberry, Wesley R. 1995. Transitional fossil challenge.

Godfrey, L. R. 1983. Creationism and gaps in the fossil record. In: Godfrey, L. R. (ed.), Scientists Confront Creationism, New York: W. W. Norton, pp. 193-218.

Morton, Glenn R. 2000. Phylum level evolution.

Pojeta, John Jr. and Dale A. Springer. 2001. Evolution and the Fossil Record, Alexandria, VA: American Geological Institute, , , pg. 2.

Strahler, Arthur N. 1987. Science and Earth History, Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books, pp. 398-400.

Zimmer, Carl. 2000. In search of vertebrate origins: Beyond brain and bone. Science 287: 1576-1579.
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created 2001-4-29, modified 2006-11-5