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Creation 33(2):12–15, April 2011

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Abandoned transitional forms


Abandoned transitional forms

Charles Darwin had a problem—a huge one. He couldn’t name any transitional forms1 in his Origin of Species (1859). Instead he devoted a whole chapter to lamenting “The Imperfection of the Geological Record”, in which he wrote:

“Geology assuredly does not reveal any such finely graduated organic chain; and this, perhaps, is the most obvious and gravest objection which can be urged against my theory. The explanation lies, as I believe, in the extreme imperfection of the geological record.”2

Darwin didn’t have this problem on his own. Dr Colin Patterson (1933–1998), Senior Palaeontologist at the British Museum of Natural History, London, when asked why he had no illustrations of evolutionary transitions in his 1978 book Evolution, said: “there is not one such fossil for which one could make a watertight argument”.3 And Prof. Stephen J. Gould (1941–2002) said, “The extreme rarity of transitional forms in the fossil record persists as the trade secret of paleontology.”4

Indeed, 150 years of vigorous searching by evolutionists through millions of tonnes of fossils has failed to produce even one clear ‘chain’ of such transitional forms, let alone the multitudes of chains required by Darwinism. Over the years, only a tiny handful of ‘candidates’ claimed to be ‘transitional’ have been produced. These have usually been announced in a blaze of publicity to showcase evolution and indoctrinate everybody. However, when with time the weight of contrary evidence has indicated error, recantation (if any) has usually been whisper quiet, and the next generation of scientists promotes its own contenders.5

This article discusses some of the claimed transitional forms which evolutionists themselves have had to abandon through sheer weight of contrary evidence.

Fish-to-land-animal transitional forms


Tiktaalik on the cover of Nature, 6 April, 2006. Footprints ‘millions of evolutionary years’ older, as shown on Nature, 7 January 2010, should have consigned Tiktaalik to the ‘abandoned’ bin.

Tiktaalik—a 20-cm-long fish skull and some fossil front fins (with bones roughly like those of land vertebrates) was found in Arctic Canada in 2004. It was vigorously promoted by evolutionists as being the 375-million-year-old extinct transitional link that was on its way to becoming the first four-legged land vertebrate (tetrapod). The fossil was featured on the cover of Nature, in which an article said, “ … this really is what our ancestors looked like when they began to leave the water. … ”6

Alas for Tiktaalik as a missing link, this assumption has been faulted. Several well-preserved footprints undoubtedly made by a four-legged animal were found in Poland in rock ‘dated’ at 18 million years older than Tiktaalik.7 Nature admitted: “They force a radical reassessment of the timing, ecology and environmental setting of the fish–tetrapod transition … .”8

A coelacanth

However, Tiktaalik (like the coelacanth fish and ‘Lucy’) has entered the folklore of evolutionary story-telling, and we anticipate that evolutionists generally won’t drop it until they find something to replace it.

2. The Coelacanth fish

The coelacanth fish (pictured right) was promoted as the 100-million-year old ancestor of land animals—until one was found alive in 1938. It uses its lower fins for maneuvering, not ‘walking’ as claimed.9

Mammals to whales

The Science drawing of Pakicetus.

One of the first whale ancestors claimed by evolutionists was Mesonychia, a medium-sized land mammal something like a wolf, with supposedly whale-like teeth. Then came Pakicetus (‘Pakistan whale’)—the name paleontologist Philip Gingerich gave to the top of a skull, two lower jaw fragments, and a few teeth discovered in Pakistan in the late 1970s. He said it was “the oldest and most primitive cetacean known.”10

Pakicetus seven years later

It was proclaimed to the world on the cover of Science magazine of 22 April 1983.10 The Science editor wrote: “Pakicetus provides the first direct evidence of an amphibious state in the evolutionary transition of whales from land to sea.” But he cautiously added: “reconstruction of post cranial skeleton is entirely hypothetical”.10 That’s evolution-speak for “beyond the head it’s all made up”.

Many years later, some more bones of Pakicetus were found and written up in Nature. The commentary said, “All the postcranial bones indicate that pakicetids were land mammals, and … were runners, with only their digits touching the ground.”11 Now, evolutionist Richard Dawkins tells us that molecular genetic evidence shows that the closest relatives of whales are hippos,12 not mesonychids. And yet, many popular evolutionist accounts still retain Pakicetus as an ancestor of whales, because of claimed similarities in its inner ear structure.


Evolutionists say that birds evolved from dinosaurs. Two intermediates claimed have been:

1. Archaeopteryx

This is the name given to several fossil bird specimens found in Solnhofen, Germany, between 1861 and 1993. Evolutionist textbooks have long said it was a transitional form between reptiles and birds. This is despite the fact that it had fully formed flight feathers, wings attached to a large wishbone, a perching foot, bird-like bones and birdlike brain case.13 Furthermore bird-like tracks have been found in older rocks.14 And fossils of two crow-sized birds have been found in Texas in older strata (although this is disputed), with the finder, Sankar Chatterjee, suggesting the name Protoavis texensis (‘first bird from Texas’).15,16


2. Archaeoraptor

In 1999, the National Geographic Society unveiled Archaeoraptor liaoningensis, a small fossil from China, at a press conference. Ten pages of pictures and text were devoted to it in their November 1999 magazine, which stated:

“With arms of a primitive bird and the tail of a dinosaur, this creature found in Liaoning province, China, is a true missing link in the complex chain that connects dinosaurs to birds. … This mix of advanced and primitive features is exactly what scientists would expect to find in dinosaurs experimenting with flight.”17

Alas for the evolutionist community, Archaeoraptor was a fraud—a forgery concocted by a Chinese farmer for profit. In due course, studies showed that the fossil was a ‘doctored’ combination of up to five separate specimens.

Ape-to-human transitional forms

1. Ramapithecus

In 1960, Elwyn Simons of Yale University reconstructed a few jaw and teeth fragments found in northern India in 1932, and called his reconstruction Ramapithecus, the ancestor of humans. This theory soon gained wide acceptance among evolutionist anthropologists. Then, in 1976 a complete Ramapithecus jaw was found which was obviously non-hominid, and the theory was abandoned. Ramapithecus is now classified as an ape-like creature related to the orangutan.18

2. Nebraska Man

After the Piltdown Hoax (used to promote evolution for 40 years), one of the most embarrassing ‘ape-man’ claims by evolutionists was ‘Nebraska Man’, given the scientific name Hesperopithecus haroldcookii by Henry F. Osborn, Director of the American Museum of Natural History. It was based on the 1922 discovery of a single fossil tooth from western Nebraska.

However, after further search, in 1927 it was grudgingly admitted that the tooth was that of Prosthennops, an extinct pig. This was not considered generally newsworthy, but Science magazine gently stated that the tooth was apparently not that of a man nor an ape,19 and Encyclopaedia Britannica euphemistically offered that it belonged to a “being of another order”.

The article stated: “In 1922 a much eroded tooth was found in beds of
Pliocene date at Snake Creek quarry, Nebraska, which was attributed to an anthropoid ape—Hesperopithecus was the name proposed for it—but later discoveries showed that a mistake had been made and that the tooth belonged to a being of another order.”20 All references were expunged from the 15th edition of Encylopaedia Britannica.

3. Neanderthal Man

False early depiction of Neanderthal

This was the name given to bones found in 1856 in Germany’s Neander valley. Despite early reconstructions giving it a brutish, ape-man appearance, Neanderthal Man is now commonly regarded as a variety or race of Homo sapiens. Recent DNA evidence has confirmed that Neanderthals even interbred with ‘moderns’.21

This drawing (right) of Neanderthal Man appeared in The Illustrated London News in 1909. In 1957, anthropologists William Straus and A.J.E. Cave reassessed the evidence and said that if a Neanderthal “could be reincarnated and placed in a New York subway—provided that he were bathed, shaved and dressed in modern clothing—it is doubtful whether he would attract any more attention than some of its other denizens.”22

4. Australopithecines, including ‘Lucy’

The most recent evolutionary ‘ape-man’ candidate is a group of African fossils called australopithecines.23 The first, found in 1924, was a small ape-like skull named Australopithecus africanus by Raymond Dart. For fifty years the public was told this was our evolutionary ancestor.24

Then in 1974 Donald Johanson’s team in Ethiopia found a 1.1-metre-tall, 40%-complete [claimed—Ed] skeleton they nicknamed ‘Lucy’. This was declared to be a hominid (‘ape-woman’), and (along with other similar bones found nearby) was given the name Australopithecus afarensis.

This replaced Dart’s A. africanus as our evolutionary ancestor by the simple expedient of declaring it to be a million or so years older. So Africanus became a sideline, no longer an ancestor.

Today detailed numerical analysis of their anatomy has shown that the australopithecines are not intermediates but are a unique, now extinct, ape-like group of creatures that “are more different from humans and African apes than humans and African apes are from each other”.25 However, evolutionists have nothing to fill the hole left by ‘Lucy’ and so she is still erroneously included in most treatments of human evolution.26


What has happened in the past will undoubtedly be repeated in the future. Evolutionists and evolutionary journals will continue to promulgate the handful of ‘missing link’ fossil candidates as ‘proof’ of evolution and ‘disproof’ of the Bible, despite the fact that the huge numbers that ought to exist if evolution were true remain stubbornly absent. Otherwise they must face being confronted with the fact that we were created by God and so are answerable to Him. But fossils touted today will certainly succumb to new evidence and be supplanted by new finds in the future. Caveat lector (let the reader beware)!


Our thanks to Ian Taylor, author of In the Minds of Men, for supplying a copy of the original ref. 20.

Posted on homepage: 6 August 2012

References and notes

  1. Aka ‘in-between forms’ or ‘missing links’, these are organisms supposed to have existed during the ‘transition’ as one organism allegedly evolved into another quite different kind over millions of years. As such, they would be expected to show the stages of that transition. Return to text.
  2. Darwin, C., Origin of Species, 1859, ch. 9, p. 280, Darwin online. Return to text.
  3. See Bates G., That quote! about the missing transitional fossils, Creation 29(1):12–15, Dec. 2006, creation.com/pattquote. Return to text.
  4. Gould, S.J., Evolution’s erratic pace, Natural History 86(5):14, May 1977. Return to text.
  5. Of course, we do not disparage advancing scientific knowledge, and creationists have a list of former creation evidences we no longer use or recommend, which, in the interests of truth, we gladly publicize. See creation.com/dontuse. Return to text.
  6. Ahlberg, E., and Clack, J.A., A firm step from water to land, Nature 440(7085):cover and pp. 747–49, 6 April, 2006. Return to text.
  7. See Sarfati, J., Tiktaalik roseae, a fishy missing link , J. of Creation 21(1):53–57, 2007; creation.com/tiktaalik. See also Walker, T., Tetrapods from Poland trample the Tiktaalik school of evolution, creation.com/tetrapod-footprints. Return to text.
  8. Niedzwiedzki, G., et al, Tetrapod trackways from the early Middle Devonian period of Poland, Nature, 463(7277):cover and pp. 43–48, 7 January 2010. Return to text.
  9. See creation.com/coelacanth. Return to text.
  10. Gingerich, P. et al., Origin of Whales in Epicontinental Remnant Seas: Evidence from the Early Eocene of Pakistan, Science 220(4595):cover and pp. 403–06, 22 April 1983. Return to text.
  11. Christian de Muizan, Walking with Whales, Nature 413(6853):259–60, 20 Sept. 2001. Return to text.
  12. Dawkins, R., The Greatest Show on Earth: the evidence for evolution, Transworld, London, 2009, p. 170. Return to text.
  13. See Sarfati, J., Birds: fliers from the beginning, Creation 29(3):27, June 2007; creation.com/archie. Return to text.
  14. Oard, M., Very old bird tracks claimed to be from an unknown dinosaur, J. of Creation (formerly TJ) 17(2):4–5, 2003, who quotes Melchor, R., Valals, S., & Genise, J., Bird-like fossil footprints from the Late Triassic, Nature 417:936–938, 27 June 2002. Return to text.
  15. Anderson, A., Early bird threatens Archaeopteryx’s Perch, Science 253 (5015):35, 5 July 1991. See also Beardsley, T., Fossil bird shakes evolutionary hypotheses, Nature 322:677, 21 August 1986. Return to text.
  16. For an indepth discussion of the relationship of Archaeopteryx to modern birds see Woodmorappe, J., Bird evolution: discontinuities and reversals, J. of Creation 17(1):88–94, April 2003; creation.com/bird-evolution. Return to text.
  17. Sloan, C.P., Feathers for T. Rex?: new birdlike fossils are missing links in dinosaur evolution, National Geographic 196(5):98–107, Nov. 1999. For the retraction see Simons L., Archaeoraptor Fossil Trail, National Geographic 198(4):128–132, Oct. 2000. Return to text.
  18. Based on Ramapithecus (fossil primate genus) Britannica Online Encyclopedia. See also Ramapithecus, Columbia Encyclopedia 6th edition, 2008, encyclopedia.com/topic/Ramapithecus.aspx. Return to text.
  19. Gregory, W.K., Hesperopithecus Apparently not an ape nor a man, Science 60(1720):579–581, 16 Dec. 1927. Return to text.
  20. Encyclopaedia Britannica 14th edit. 1929 printing, Vol. 14, p. 767. Return to text.
  21. See Carter, R., Neanderal genome like ours, creation.com/neandergenes. Return to text.
  22. Straus, W., and Cave, A.J.E., Pathology and posture of Neanderthal Man, Quarterly Review of Biology, 32:348–63, Dec. 1957. Return to text.
  23. From australo (‘southern’) and pithecus ‘ape’. Return to text.
  24. See Grigg, R., Raymond Dart and the missing link , Creation 28(4):36–40, Sept. 2008. Return to text.
  25. See evolutionist anthropologist Prof. C.E. Oxnard, Fossils, Teeth and Sex—New Perspectives on Human Evolution, Hong Kong University Press, 1987, p. x. See also Oxnard, C., The place of the australopithecines in human evolution: grounds for doubt? Nature 258:389–395, 1975. Return to text.
  26. See Anderson, D., No more love for Lucy? creation.com/lucylove; Wieland, C., The Lucy Child : more good news for creationists, creation.com/the-lucy-child; and Oard, M., Did Lucy walk upright? J. of Creation 15(2):9–10, 2001, creation.com/lucy. Return to text.

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