Although evolution is described by paleontological examples of gradual transitions through intermediate states, these kinds of transitions are by no means universally found in the fossil record. Intermediate stages in the evolution of many higher taxa are not known, and many closely related species in the fossil record are separated by smaller but nonetheless distinct gaps. Most paleontologists have followed Darwin in ascribing these gaps to the great incompleteness of the fossil record. Long periods in which species exhibit little or no detectable phenotypic change, interrupted by rapid shifts from one such state to another; can be explained by
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