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Index to Creationist Claims,  edited by Mark Isaak,    Copyright © 2004
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Claim CB704:

Human embryos do not have gill slits; they have pharyngeal pouches. In fish, these develop into gills, but in reptiles, mammals, and birds, they develop into other structures and are never even rudimentary gills. Calling them gill slits is reading Darwinian theory into the evidence. There is no way gill slits can serve as evidence for evolution.


Wells, Jonathan, 2000. Icons of Evolution, Washington DC: Regnery Publishing Inc., pp. 105-107.


  1. The pharyngeal pouches that appear in embryos technically are not gill slits, but that is irrelevant. The reason they are evidence for evolution is that the same structure, whatever you call it, appears in all vertebrate embryos. Agassiz (not a Darwinist himself) said, "The higher Vertebrates, including man himself, breathe through gill-like organs in the early part of their life. These gills disappear and give place to lungs only in a later phase of their existence" (Agassiz 1874).

    Darwinian evolution predicts, among other things, similar (not identical) structures in related organisms. That pharyngeal pouches in humans are similar to pharyngeal pouches (or whatever you call them) in fish is one piece of evidence that humans and fish share a common ancestor.


  1. Agassiz, Louis, 1874. Evolution and Permanence of Type, reprinted in Hull, David L., 1973, Darwin and His Critics, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, p. 440.

Further Reading:

Gilbert, Scott F., 1988. Developmental Biology, 2nd ed. Sunderland MA: Sinauer Associates.
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created 2001-2-17, modified 2003-5-22