By Dr. Fazale Rana
From Eli Haltov, Israel:
What is a transitional form? And is it correct to say that there are no transitional forms in the fossil record?
Eli, as with all things, definitions are important. In evolutionary biology, the term “transitional intermediate” is ambiguous and can assume one of two meanings.
Many people understand this term to refer to one or more of the organisms that comprise the stepwise, evolutionary transition of one species (or taxon) into another. At times, evolutionary biologists do employ this definition. Quite frequently, however, they use transitional intermediates to refer to the entire ensemble of organisms between two time points in the fossil record.
Evolutionary biologists will often use this second definition when they have no real understanding of the precise evolutionary pathway that connects two organisms. Yet, in spite of their uncertainty, they are convinced that an evolutionary pathway must exist. They are equally convinced that they will eventually identify that pathway. In the meantime, they deem all the organisms that exist between two time points in the fossil record as transitional forms, irrespective of whether or not they are actually part of an evolutionary sequence.
In my opinion, if the evolutionary paradigm is to be considered a valid model, then the fossil record needs to be replete with transitional forms documenting the actual transformation of one taxon into another, as defined by the first meaning. Remarkably, there are very few examples of these types of transitional intermediates. For example, paleontologist Christopher R. C. Paul states in The Adequacy of the Fossil Record…
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