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Index to Creationist Claims,  edited by Mark Isaak,    Copyright © 2005
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Claim CC200.1:

Given all the species that exist and have existed, there should be billions of transitional fossils in the fossil record; we should have found tens of thousands at least.


Gish, Duane T., 1994. When is a whale a whale? Impact 250 (Apr.).


  1. Some important factors prevent the formation of fossils from being common:

    Passenger pigeons, once numbered in the billions, went extinct less than 200 years ago. How many passenger pigeon fossils can you find? If they are hard to find, why should we expect to find fossils that are likely from smaller populations and have been subject to millions of years of potential erosion?

  2. Other processes destroy fossils. Erosion (and/or lack of deposition in the first place) often destroys hundreds of millions of years or more of the geological record, so the geological record at any place usually has long gaps. Fossils can also be destroyed by heat or pressure when buried deep underground.

  3. As rare as fossils are, fossil discovery is still rarer. For the most part, we find only fossils that have been exposed by erosion, and only if the exposure is recent enough that the fossils themselves do not erode.

    As climates change, species will move, so we cannot expect a transition to occur all at one spot. Fossils often must be collected from all over a continent to find the transitions.

    Only Europe and North America have been well explored for fossils because that is where most of the paleontologists lived. Furthermore, regional politics interfere with collecting fossils. Some fabulous fossils have been found in China only recently because before then the politics prevented most paleontology there.

  4. The shortage is not just in fossils but in paleontologists and taxonomists. Preparing and analyzing the material for just one lineage can take a decade of work. There are likely hundreds of transitional fossils sitting in museum drawers, unknown because nobody knowledgeable has examined them.

  5. Description of fossils is often limited to professional literature and does not get popularized. This is especially true of marine microfossils, which have the best record.

  6. If fossilization were so prevalent and young-earth creationism were true, we should find indications in the fossil record of animals migrating from the Ark to other continents.


Hunt, Kathleen. 1997. Transitional vertebrate fossils FAQ, part 1A.

Further Reading:

Kidwell, S. M. and S. M. Holland. 2002. The quality of the fossil record: Implications for evolutionary analyses. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 33: 561-588. (technical)
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created 2003-7-11, modified 2004-1-29