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bil's avatar

What is the meaning of Darwin's "missing link" in a simple language?

Asked by bil (20points) June 7th, 2009
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13 Answers

Lightlyseared's avatar

Missing link is a popular term for the concept of transitional fossils.

According to evolutionary theory all species are in transition ie in the process of changing due to the pressures of natural selection. This process can be very slow depending on the rate at which the species reproduces. Fossils only show examples of species at a set time (when that particular animal died) and it is very difficult for fossils to form therefore they are rare and don’t include examples of every stage of evolution. You may have one fossil from 200 million years ago and one from 150 million years ago and be able to see some similarites between them but not all. In this case the missing link (or links) would be the animals between the two fossils that you have that would help to better explain the process of evoltion in that species.

A classic example is the Archaeopteryx. Some dinosaurs (Theropoda) share a lot of features in common with modern birds however it wasn’t until the discovery of the Archaeopteryx (2 years after the publication of The Origin of Species) which had a lot of features in common with therapods but also had feathers therefore making it the first clear “missing link” between dinosaurs and birds.

Bluefreedom's avatar


And what @Lightlyseared said above.

mattbrowne's avatar

In addition to what has been said above there are also the missing links of

- molecular evolution from organic chemistry to the origin of life i.e. the very first self-replication organisms / the very first organisms capable of metabolism

- the evolution of cells and cell organelles

- the evolution of the first multi-cellular organisms

- plus missing links related to Precambrian species and the Cambrian explosion

Regarding molecular evolution we still have to discover principles of nature to complement Darwin’s theory.

On the other hand there are some good scientific theories to explain the origins of organelles, see

“The endosymbiont theory attempts to explain the origins of organelles such as mitochondria and chloroplasts in eukaryotic cells. The theory proposes that chloroplasts and mitochondria evolved from certain types of bacteria that prokaryotic cells engulfed through endophagocytosis. These cells and the bacteria trapped inside them entered a symbiotic relationship, a close association between different types of organisms over an extended time.”

filmfann's avatar

To try this quickly, in simple language:
Darwin believed we slowly morphed into humans, rather than changed with a snap!

Lonestarwildman's avatar

All of the above,but simply:
An organism which stared in the ocean crawled to the surface and became amphibous.
From there developing legs as it changed and began to stand until the apes and from there the pre-historic man until modern man.The missing link is the one between the tranistion from ape to man.(Thats why some believe the legendary “Bigfoot“may have [or is] the missing link)

filmfann's avatar

Bigfoot might be the missing link between being in focus, and out of focus.

Imboden's avatar

It looks like you can get all the information that you need about The Missing Link right here:

Ivan's avatar


Did you just call Aboriginals transitional forms?

Bluefreedom's avatar

@Ivan. Not exactly. Maybe indirectly. I’m pretty sure I didn’t.

Ivan's avatar


They are every bit as human as you and I…

Bluefreedom's avatar

@Ivan. Whatever you say. You’re the expert.

mattbrowne's avatar

@Bluefreedom – I recommend you read some studies about the human genome. Maybe my recent Fluther question can help you get started:

Bluefreedom's avatar

@mattbrowne. I’ll get right on that. Thanks for the link.

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