When animals evolve, they go into transitional states, when they were still in the process of evolving and haven't reached its complete change. There are bound to be organisms in the transitional state that die and get fossilized.

Are there any records of transition fossils being found? If not, does this disprove evolution?

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    @ Fabian: the question is still loaded. It implies there's an 'incomplete' state of animal, being in the process of 'evolving' as opposed to 'complete' animal who presumably finished evolving. It also implies there's some sort of 'transitional' kind of fossil. It's complete and utter BS. Every animal and every fossil is a transition between it's ancestors and it's offspring
    – user288
    May 21, 2011 at 8:38
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    @Sejanus I know that, and that is exactly what should be put into an answer. This is a very common question by creationists and we should have an answer to it. I think we should just answer questions based on a misunderstanding of basic science or facts, I don't want to just close them.
    – Mad Scientist
    May 21, 2011 at 8:42
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    This question is ultimatly a set up for the god of the gaps argument. But I must go now, I have to walk my croco-duck. May 21, 2011 at 8:47
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    For transitional forms,they haven't just been found, they've been created.Consider Lenski's experiment from Michigan State. Over 20 yrs and about 44,000 generations,he watched and documented E.Coli developing the ability to metabolze citrate(around the 31,000th generation,stemming from a mutation which first developed in the 20,000th generation) which it could not normally use, and in fact is one of the criteria used for identifying E.Coli as a species. He's still got not only the documentation, but THE ACTUAL FROZEN BACTERIA in his lab. May 21, 2011 at 9:08
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    @ThirdIdiot Hey! Come back here with that goalpost! Your original question didn't specify a need for human examples. (Sigh) Anyway a list of prominent hominid fossils can be found here. I would also advide you go here the unofficial stephen jay gould archive and just start reading, that is, if you really are serious about learning the subject. May 23, 2011 at 7:38

3 Answers 3


Every fossil, and indeed every living creature, is transitional between an older form and a newer (or yet to come) form. We have a pretty good collection of fossils that show a transition from older forms to newer forms, such as the transition of large land mammals to whales. Scientists using the Theory of Evolution have even predicted a transitional form and where to find it. This transitional fossil, tiktaalik, was found based on these predictions.

More details have emerged about the anatomy of Tiktaalik, the "fishopod" that bridges the gap in evolutionary history between swimming fish and four-legged land-dwelling animals. The new findings bolster its position as a key transition or "missing link" fossil.

Keep in mind, POPULATIONS evolve, NOT individuals. That is a huge misunderstanding that creationists seem unwilling to learn. There is no such thing as Cameron's crockoduck. It never could exist, and the theory of evolution never said it would. Nor is there a fronkey, or any other such nonsense. I suggest you read these books (Why Evolution is True and The Greatest Show on Earth) to get an idea of what evolution actually states as opposed to the gross caricature you seem to have in your head.

National Geographic published this article back in Feb, 2009. It does a nice job listing some of the better documented transitions we have (although not the only 7, just some of the ones that would be impossible to ignore without willful mental gymnastics). They give you Tiktaalik (like I did), Archaeopteryx, Amphistium, Ambulocetus, Homo Ergaster, Hyracotherium/Eohippus, and Thrinaxodon. And here is an even longer list of transitional fossils. Or if you prefer, the wikipedia list.

Michael Shermer tackles this assertion straight on.

  1. There are no transitional forms in the fossil record, anywhere, including and especially humans. The whole fossil record is an embarrassment to evolutionists. What about Neanderthals? These are all diseased skeletons-arthritis, rickets, etc., that create the bowed legs, brow ridge, and larger skeletal structure. Homo erectus, and Australopithecus, are just apes.

Creationists like to quote Darwin's famous passage in the Origin of Species in which he asks: "Why then is not every geological formation and every stratum full of such intermediate links? Geology assuredly does not reveal any such finely graduated organic chain; and this, perhaps, is the gravest objection which can be urged against my theory." One answer is that there are plenty of examples of transitional forms that have been discovered since Darwin's time. Just look in any paleontology text. A second answer was provided in 1972 by Eldredge and Gould when they demonstrated that gaps in the fossil record do not indicate missing data of slow and stately change; rather, it is evidence of rapid and episodic change. Using Mayr's "allopatric speciation," where small and unstable "founder" populations are isolated at the periphery of the larger populations's range, they show that the relatively rapid change in this smaller gene pool creates new species but leaves behind few, if any, fossils. The process of fossilization is rare and infrequent anyway. It is almost nonexistent during these times of rapid speciation. A lack of fossils is evidence for rapid change, not missing evidence for gradual evolution.

Scientific American adds this in an article debunking 15 unoriginal and poorly thought out false assertions by creationists:

  1. Evolutionists cannot point to any transitional fossils--creatures that are half reptile and half bird, for instance.

Actually, paleontologists know of many detailed examples of fossils intermediate in form between various taxonomic groups. One of the most famous fossils of all time is Archaeopteryx, which combines feathers and skeletal structures peculiar to birds with features of dinosaurs. A flock's worth of other feathered fossil species, some more avian and some less, has also been found. A sequence of fossils spans the evolution of modern horses from the tiny Eohippus. Whales had four-legged ancestors that walked on land, and creatures known as Ambulocetus and Rodhocetus helped to make that transition [see "The Mammals That Conquered the Seas," by Kate Wong; Scientific American, May]. Fossil seashells trace the evolution of various mollusks through millions of years. Perhaps 20 or more hominids (not all of them our ancestors) fill the gap between Lucy the australopithecine and modern humans.

Creationists, though, dismiss these fossil studies. They argue that Archaeopteryx is not a missing link between reptiles and birds--it is just an extinct bird with reptilian features. They want evolutionists to produce a weird, chimeric monster that cannot be classified as belonging to any known group. Even if a creationist does accept a fossil as transitional between two species, he or she may then insist on seeing other fossils intermediate between it and the first two. These frustrating requests can proceed ad infinitum and place an unreasonable burden on the always incomplete fossil record.

Nevertheless, evolutionists can cite further supportive evidence from molecular biology. All organisms share most of the same genes, but as evolution predicts, the structures of these genes and their products diverge among species, in keeping with their evolutionary relationships. Geneticists speak of the "molecular clock" that records the passage of time. These molecular data also show how various organisms are transitional within evolution.

And because I also have this at my fingertips, here is Calilasseia's reply to this oft debunked canard.

(14) The "no transitional forms" canard.

In order to deal with this one, I have the following to ask. Namely:

(1) Have you ever studied comparative anatomy in detail, at a proper, accredited academic institution?

(2) Do you understand rigorously what is meant by "species"?

(3) Do you understand even the basics of inheritance and population genetics?

(4) Do you understand the basics of the workings of meiosis?

If you cannot answer "yes" to all four of the above, then you are in no position to erect this canard. And, canard it is, as anyone with a proper understanding of the dynamic nature of species will readily understand, a topic I have posted at length on in the past. Indeed, you only have to ask yourself the following question, "Am I identical to either of my parents?" in order to alight quickly upon why this canard IS a canard. Your own family photo album supplies you with the answer here. YOU are a "transitional form" between your parents and your offspring, should you have any offspring.

If you want a good visualization of evolution, maybe this picture will help you with some shorthand: Evolution as a colour THAT is a logical process that seems to escape people who deny evolution. Again, I suggest you read up more at one of the earlier links provided.

EDIT TO ADD: And the ever popular goalpost moving, ThirdIdiot (or whatever name he's using) has asked for transitional fossils in the line of human evolution. If that link is not enough, there is the Stephen Jay Gould list of links that may also provide a great deal of information. Of course, that assumes you are willing to let go of the wildly inaccurate caricature of evolution that you seem to be holding on to.

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    Is there a meta discussion for how we handle questions that are obviously not asked in good faith? Because between this one and his earlier canard about the laws of thermodynamics, I can't help but get the feeling he's not looking for answers so much as an excuse to give the question credibility that it doesn't deserve... Jun 16, 2014 at 9:19
  • The last link to Stephen Jay Gould's list no longer works. Does anyone know an appropriate replacement?
    – Florian
    Jan 6, 2020 at 19:43

Are there any records of transition fossils being found?

Yes. Millions of them. Because every single fossil is a fossil of a 'transitional' form. Note that this term isn't even used in science in this sense. Because no 'transitional states' exist, every single animal is a transition between it's ancestors and it's offspring.

If not, does this disprove evolution?

If no fossil were found - and I am talking any fossil, because they are not divided into 'transitional' and 'final' ones - that wouldn't disprove evolution by any means. There are loads and loads of evidence in favor of theory of evolution besides the fossils, and there isn't even any alternate theory. As R. Dawkins said, fossils are just "nice bonus", they aren't really a necessary evidence for evolution. Genetics alone offers a plenty of evidence.


  • R. Dawkins. "The Selfish Gene"
  • R. Dawkins. "The Blind Watchmaker"

Numerous "transitional fossils" have been proven to be fakes. In the case of Lucy, the debunking actually comes from observations of the "scientists" who studied it themselves: https://bnugent.org/famous-fossil-ape-named-lucy-debunked-by-science

It was proven to be nothing more than a modern ape. Of course, even they still won't admit it was a fake.

Here's a list of a few of the "missing links" proven to be fakes: https://www.popularmechanics.com/science/archaeology/g3051/fake-fossils/

  • Welcome to Skeptics! You have cited a Christian apologetic creationist, who is far removed from the scientific consensus. [Consider if the reason they won't "admit" it was a fake, because the evidence supports it being real.] Your interesting history of fake fossils only includes one (Piltdown Man) which was considered a "missing link" until actual scientists showed it was fake.
    – Oddthinking
    May 18, 2023 at 10:49
  • Read the article. Their own observations clearly cast doubt on Lucy being anything more than a normal chimp. Chimps have no problem walking upright, & they only find 40% of it & of course no soft tissue, so they can't even be sure they're assembling it right, but as the article says "They view the evidence through the lens of their Darwinian presuppositions" so they're going to interpret it as evidence whether there's doubt or not. They've found more fossils recently which show it had curved toes like a chimp. believe what you want, but even those who we're there had differing opinions.
    – jastako
    May 26, 2023 at 22:47
  • Even secular evolutionist researchers have describe it as similar to a small chimpanzee.
    – jastako
    May 26, 2023 at 22:48
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    Alas, I did read the article. Nugent thinks showing Lucy is an ape means it isn't a "proto-human", but we are apes, so that is silly. Nugent thinks that because Lucy has some chimp-like attributes, it proves Lucy isn't a proto-human, but we would expect that. Nugent misrepresents Berge et al who found their proposed reconstruction of the pelvis would support "human-like movement" of fetal skulls. Nugent is wrong about what the consilience view is. Not sure who "those who were there" are.
    – Oddthinking
    May 27, 2023 at 19:49
  • That's the point. Lucy isn't a proto-human or "missing link" of any kind. It's a chimp & the fossils show that. The skepticism (even from secular evolutionists) is because their findings contradicted the suggestion that it's anything more than an chimp.
    – jastako
    May 30, 2023 at 12:14

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