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Very ancient fish find prompts a thought: Is “missing link” a useful concept?

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Laccognathus embryi/Jason Poole, AP

From “New Species of Ancient Predatory Fish Discovered” (ScienceDaily, Sep. 12, 2011), we learn:

The Academy of Natural Sciences has announced the discovery of a new species of large predatory fish that prowled ancient North American waterways during the Devonian Period, before backboned animals existed on land.

So far as we know …

The 375-million-year-old beast was discovered by the same group of researchers who discovered Tiktaalik roseae, the important transitional animal considered “a missing link” between fish and the earliest limbed animals. The fossil remains of the new species were found at the same site as Tiktaalik, on Ellesmere Island in the remote Nunavut Territory of Arctic Canada.

Actually, it’s not clear that Tiktaalik is a missing link:

Just when everyone thought that a consensus had emerged, a new fossil find is reported – throwing everything into the melting pot (again!). Trackways of an unknown tetrapod have been recovered from rocks dated 10 million years earlier than Tiktaalik. The authors say that the trackways occur in rocks that: “can be securely assigned to the lower-middle Eifelian, corresponding to an age of approximately 395 million years”. At a stroke, this rules out not only Tiktaalik as a tetrapod ancestor, but also all known representatives of the elpistostegids. The arrival of tetrapods is now considered to be 20 million years earlier than previously thought and these tetrapods must now be regarded as coexisting with the elpistostegids. Once again, the fossil record has thrown up a big surprise, but this one is not “entirely compatible with evolutionary thinking”. It is a find that was not predicted and it does not fit at all into the emerging consensus.

It’s not even clear that “missing link” is a useful concept.

First, only a rigidly Darwinian view of evolution demands that a long, slow, orderly procession of missing links must exist. Why must they? All the evidence points to short periods of rapid change followed by long periods of stasis. Look at all the “earlier than thought” stories we’ve run here at Uncommon Descent!

We really have very few fossils, compared to all the identifiable species that have lived. The obsession with missing links (besides leading to nonsense like Mayor Bloomberg’s Ida fossil) promotes a false history.

It’s somewhat like finding 88 pieces of a five thousand piece-puzzle, for which we don’t have the picture on the front of the box. We search anxiously for border and corner pieces.

We don’t realize that the puzzle is round.

And we never will if we are obsessed with flat borders and corners.

I don't know that the term "missing link" is at all useful. Even if you subscribe to the theory of common descent from a single celled organism. Specifically, it assumes that there is a singular connection point. As the way it is typically used, it implies a link between homo sapiens and a previous species. It assumes that the link is singular. Such that a step wise connection between A and C can be found through B as in: ( A => B => C ). I think it would be a bit premature to assume that the "link" (connection point) is singular. Why could it not be something like ( A => B || E || F => C ) which is a multi-point connection in that you can get from A to C via B, E, or F. I think it also a bit premature to assume that there is indeed a connection point. How do we know that there is a path from A to C. Rather than just A & C. I think the assumption of A to C, via B (the missing link) requires too many assumptions to be made. ciphertext
Yes. missing link always presumed lins between stages in some creatures evolution. So they expect the oldest fossils to have evolved into different things by now or if not just because of extincyion. Then there it is!!! A LIVING MISSING LINK. Its probably the whole idea of evolution that should go missing. Also, my iD friends, the idea that geology has been proven to show long ages of earth history. Biology evidence should be segregated from geology presumptions. A major flaw in the logic has been to base biological evolution confidence on geological conclusions. IS this geology stuff true and are these fossils from these long ago ages? Robert Byers
The phrase "missing link" has been used extensively in popular writings on human evolution to refer to a perceived gap in the hominid evolutionary record. It is most commonly used to refer to any new transitional fossil finds. Scientists, however, do not use the term as it is misleading and inaccurate.
From wiki Petrushka

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