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Why are fossils important evidence of evolution?

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Quick Answer

Fossils are important evidence of evolution because they clearly show the incremental development of modern species from long-extinct primitive organisms. Many modern species, such as the horse, have a clear fossil record showing how they came to exist in their current forms.

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Full Answer

Any single fossil is largely useless as evidence of evolution, but over time scientists have discovered a significant fossil record of various species. These fossils are often clearly recognizable as ancestors of modern species. Fossils are also consistent within geological regions, showing that these gradually developing species mostly lived in the same area and allowing scientists to further study isolated populations. Incremental changes are also thoroughly documented for some species. For example, the evolutionary record of the change from the prehistoric Eohippus to the modern horse is well-documented; Eohippus was a short, four-toed equid that lived 60 million years ago and gradually developed into the tall, single-toed modern equine.

Although there are some gaps and other unexplained anomalies in the fossil record, the bulk of the evidence strongly supports the theory of evolution. Other theories that have been advanced, such as creationism, strongly contradict the fossil record. Scientists continue to study and learn about fossils in the hope of explaining any anomalies and gaining a more thorough understanding of the evolutionary process, and as of 2014, scientific evidence supports evolution.

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