What can scientists use transitional fossils to study?
Scientists use transitional fossils to study the changes of one species to another species as predicted by Darwinian Evolution.
The transitional fossils are a prediction of Darwinian evolution that proposes slow uniform changes from very simple original life forms to present complex life forms, which Darwin called descent through modification. Transition fossils are vital then to the understanding of how life could have evolved from one form to another.
The difficulty for the scientists is that the huge number of transitional fossils predicted do not exists to be able to easily study and understand the transitions between life forms.
The lack of transitional fossils caused Gould and Eldredge to propose the controversial theory of Punctuated Equilibrium. Eldredge states that Palaeontologists have been searching largely in vain for the sequences of graded series of fossils that would stand as examples of the sort of wholesale transformation of species that Darwin envisioned. ( New Scientists vol 110 1986 p 55)
Stephen Jay Gould states " The absence of fossil evidence for intermediary stages between major transitions in organic design ... has been a persistent and nagging problem for gradualistic accounts of evolution."(Is a new and general theory of Evolution Emerging Paleobiology vol 4 1980 page 127)
Transitional fossils are important in the study of proposed evolutionary relationships. The lack of transitional fossils make determining these relationships difficulty or even impossible.