, Volume 124, Issue 2, pp 121-143

Homology and ontogeny: pattern and process in comparative developmental biology

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Abstract

In this article the interface between development and homology is discussed. Development is here interpreted as a sequence of evolutionarily independent stages. Any approach stressing the importance of specific developmental stages is rejected. A homology definition is favoured which includes similarity and complexity serves as a test for homology. Complexity is seen as the possibility of subdividing a character into evolutionarily independent corresponding substructures. Topology as a test for homology is critically discussed because corresponding positions are not necessarily indicative of homology. Complexity can be used twofold for homology assessments of development: either stages or processes of development are homologised. These two approaches must not be conflated. This distinction leads to the conclusion that there is no ontogenetic homology “criterion”.