Homology and a generative theory of biological form

Acta Biotheoretica 41 (4) (1993)
Homology continues to be a concept of central importance in the study of phylogenetic relations, but its relation to ontogenetic processes remains problematical. A definition of homology in terms of equivalent morphogenetic processes is defined and applied to the comparative study of tetrapod limbs. This allows for a consistent treatment of relations of similarity and difference of appendage structure in vertebrates, and the distinction between fishes fins and tetrapod limbs in terms of the concept of equivalence is described. The role of genes can also be clarified in this context, in particular the influence of the Hox 4 complex in determining digit character and the homeotic transformations that arise from changes in their expression patterns. It is argued that these observations are not compatible with the notion of homology between individual digits (I, II, III, etc.) across the tetrapods, and that homology cannot be consistently identified with gene action. The relations between homology and the properties of the morphogenetic limb field are discussed.
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