Evolutionary Biology

Volume 27 of the series Evolutionary Biology pp 1-32

The Conceptual Relationship of Ontogeny, Phylogeny, and Classification

The Taxic Approach
  • Olivier RieppelAffiliated withDepartment of Geology, Field Museum of Natural History

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Does phylogeny build ontogenies, as Ernst Haeckel would have it, or do ontogenies make phylogeny, as Walter Garstang emphasized? Clearly, there is some relationship between ontogeny and phylogeny, since every change in phylogeny must result in changing ontogenies, while every change of ontogeny will cause a change in phylogeny. The problem is how to conceptualize this relationship to use it as a tool for phylogeny reconstruction, or to explore its significance for the evolution of complex and integrated organic systems. The problem simply is this: Do we require knowledge of a well-constrained phylogeny in order to explore the role of ontogeny in evolution? If so, how can we gain such knowledge of phylogeny? Or does the study of ontogeny provide us with a key to a well-constrained phylogeny? As this problem is a multilayered one, difficult to untangle, I propose to proceed as follows.