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Index to Creationist Claims,  edited by Mark Isaak,    Copyright © 2005
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Claim CB701:

Haeckel faked his pictures of embryos to make them look more alike than they are.


Wells, Jonathan, 2000. Icons of Evolution, Washington DC: Regnery Publishing Inc., pp. 81-109.
Behe, Michael, "Firing Line with William Buckley", PBS, 13 Dec. 1997.


  1. Haeckel's pictures are irrelevant to the question of whether the embryos are similar. What matters are the embryos themselves. Within a group, early embryos do show many similarities. For example, all vertebrates develop a notochord, body segments, pharyngeal gill pouches, and a post-anal tail. These fundamental similarities indicate a common evolutionary history. Other embryological similarities are found in other lineages, such as mollusks, arthropods, and annelids. These similarities have been long known. Professor Agassiz in 1849, for example, said, "We find, too, that the young bat, or bird, or the young serpent, in certain periods of their growth, resemble one another so much that he would defy any one to tell one from the other--or distinguish between a bat and a snake." (Scientific American 1849)

  2. The embryos also show some differences, which Haeckel glossed over. However, differences should also be expected, since the animals are not all equally related. It is the pattern of both similarities and differences that displays patterns of descent. Organisms that are less closely related are expected to look less similar.

  3. When Haeckel's inaccuracies were exposed, authors started using corrected versions. Science tends to be self-correcting.


Myers, P. Z., 2003. Wells and Haeckel's embryos: A review of chapter 5 of Icons of Evolution.


  1. Scientific American, 1849. Young Mamalia. Scientific American 4(51) (8 Sep.): 403. Reprinted in Scientific American 281(3) (Sep. 1999): 10.

Further Reading:

Pickett, Kurt M., John W. Wenzel and Steven W. Rising. 2005. Iconoclasts of evolution: Haeckel, Behe, Wells and the ontogeny of a fraud. The American Biology Teacher 67(5): 275-282.

Richardson, M. K., J. Hanken, L. Selwood, G. M. Wright, R. J. Richards and C. Pieae, 1998. Haeckel, embryos, and evolution. Science 280: 983-986.

Richardson, M. K. and G. Keuck, 2002. Haeckel's ABC of evolution and development. Biol. Rev. 77: 495-528. (technical)
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created 2001-2-17, modified 2005-6-5