150 Years Later, Fossils Still Don't Help Darwin

“Creationists claim there are no transitional fossils, aka missing links. Biologists and paleontologists, among others, know this claim is false,” according to a recent LiveScience article that then describes what it claims are 12 specific transitional form fossils.1 But do these examples really confirm Darwinism?

Charles Darwin raised a lack of transitional fossils as a possible objection to his own theory: “Why, if species have descended from other species by fine gradations, do we not everywhere see innumerable transitional forms?”2 Later in this chapter of his landmark book, he expressed hope that future discoveries would be made of transitional forms, or of creatures that showed some transitional structure—perhaps a half-scale/half-feather.

Although some creationists do say that “there are no transitional fossils,” it would be more accurate to state that there are no undisputed transitional forms. Although the article asserts that the fossil record “is full of them,” the reality is that it does not contain a single universally accepted transitional form. Every transitional fossil candidate has both proponents and doubters even among evolutionary “biologists and paleontologists.”

The first supposed transitional form offered in the report is Sahelanthropus. This 2001 discovery was first hailed as a transitional form in the ape-to-human line, but controversy over its transitional status immediately ensued. Brigitte Senut of the Natural History Museum in Paris was skeptical, saying that its skull features, “especially the [canine teeth],”3 were characteristic of female gorillas, not human-like gorillas. Senut and her colleagues also disputed that Sahelanthropus was even in the ancestry of humans at all: “To represent a valid clade, hominids must share unique defining features, and Sahelanthropus does not appear to have been an obligate biped [creature that walked on two feet].”4 In other words, Sahelanthropus is at best a highly disputed fossil of an extinct ape, having no clear transitional features.

LiveScience also listed a medium-neck-length fossil giraffe named Bohlinia and the “walking manatee” as transitional forms. However, Bohlinia is just variation within what is still clearly the giraffe kind and doesn’t answer the question, “Where did the giraffe kind come from?” Such variations within kinds do not refute the creation concept, but rather are predicted by it.5 And the “walking manatee” walked because it had fully formed, ready-to-walk legs, hips, nerves, and musculature. The article does not mention that this particular fossil is shown elsewhere to be a dead-end species, “transitioning” to nothing, according to evolutionists.6

The LiveScience article, borrowing from geologist Donald Prothero, also claimed that Moeritherium is “the ultimate transitional fossil,” the ancestor of elephants. This was an amphibious mammal, shaped like a hippo, with a mobile, muscular lip fused with its nostril. But it had none of the real characteristics of an elephant—not the trunk, size, tusks, nor the specialized weight-bearing knee joint structure.7

The “classic fossil of Archaeopteryx” is not a transitional form either, but was fully bird. Its “reptile-like” teeth and wing claws are found in some birds today.8 Many reptiles have no teeth, but nobody claims that they evolved from birds. And the discovery of a “frog-amander” has yet to be agreed upon as transitional by evolutionists. John Bolt, a curator at the Field Museum in Chicago, told National Geographic that “it is difficult to say for sure whether this creature was itself a common ancestor of the two modern groups, given that there is only one known specimen of Gerobatrachus, and an incomplete one at that.”9

Other extinct creatures had “shared features,” physical structures that are found in different kinds of living organisms. However, “shared features” are not transitional features, which is what Darwin needed. There is no scientific evidence to refute the idea that shared features were designed into creatures by a Creator who wisely formed them with the equipment to live in various shared habitats.

Fossils do reveal some truth about Darwin’s theory—they reveal that the same inconsistencies he noted between his theory and the fossil data persist, even after 150 years of frantic searches for elusive transitions.10 Not only is there no single, undisputed transition, but real fossils reveal that animals were fully formed from the beginning.


  1. Lloyd, R. Fossils Reveal Truth About Darwin's Theory. LiveScience. Posted on Livescience.com February 11, 2009, accessed February 18, 2009.
  2. Darwin, C. 1902. On The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection: or The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life, 6th Edition. New York: P. F. Collier & Son. 233.
  3. Chalmers, J. Seven million-year-old skull 'just a female gorilla.' The Sun-Herald. Posted on smh.com.au July 14, 2002, accessed February 18, 2009.
  4. Wolpoff, M. H. et al. 2002. Palaeoanthropology (communication arising): Sahelanthropus or 'Sahelpithecus'? Nature. 419 (6907): 581-582.
  5. Gish, D. 1981. Summary of Scientific Evidence for Creation. Acts & Facts. 10 (5).
  6. Rose, K. D. and J. D. Archibald. 2005. The Rise of Placental Mammals: Origins and Relationships of the Major Extant Clades. Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 87.
  7. Weissengruber, G. E. et al. 2006. The elephant knee joint: morphological and biomechanical considerations. Journal of Anatomy. 208 (1): 59-72.
  8. Denton, M. 1986. Evolution: A Theory in Crisis. Bethesda, MD: Adler and Adler, 175, 176.
  9. Casselman, A. "Frog-amander" Fossil May Be Amphibian Missing Link. National Geographic News. Posted on news.nationalgeographic.com on May 21, 2008, accessed February 18. 2009.
  10. Gish, D. 1995. Evolution: The Fossils Still Say No! El Cajon, CA: Institute for Creation Research.

* Mr. Thomas is Science Writer.

Article posted on March 2, 2009.

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