David Raup on Horse Evolution
Related to my post on the current horse evolution display in the Darwin exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History, David Raup's observations are enlightening. One of America's leading paleontologists, Raup was formerly the curator of the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago:
Darwin's general solution to the incompatibility of fossil evidence and his theory was to say that the fossil record is a very incomplete one that it is full of gaps, and that we have much to learn. In effect, he was saying that if the record were complete and if we had better knowledge of it we would see the finely graduated chain that he predicted. And this was his main argument for downgrading the evidence from the fossil record. Well, we are now about 120 years after Darwin and the knowledge of the fossil record has been greatly expanded. We now have a quarter of a million fossil species but the situation hasn't changed much. The record of evolution is still surprisingly jerky and, ironically, we have even fewer examples of evolutionary transition than we had in Darwin's time. By this I mean that some of the classic cases of darwinian change in the fossil record, such as the evolution of the horse in North America, have had to be discarded or modified as a result of more detailed information - what appeared to be a nice simple progression when relatively few data were available now appears to be much more complex and much less gradualistic. So Darwin's problem has not been alleviated in the last 120 years and we still have a record which does show change but one that can hardly be looked upon as the most reasonable consequence of natural selection. (Raup D.M., "Conflicts Between Darwin and Paleontology," Field Museum of Natural History Bulletin, Field Museum of Natural History: Chicago IL, January 1979, Vol. 50, No. 1, pp.22-29, pp.24-25)
I included this quote in this post as well.