Functional Morphology and Evolution

  • P. Dullemeijer
  • C. D. N. Barel
Part of the NATO Advanced Study Institutes Series book series (NSSB, volume 14)


The fact that the historical transformation of plants and animals concerned living, active organisms, is for many students sufficient reason to apply functional morphology to evolutionary studies (Dullemeijer, 1974; Gans, 1960; Gutmann, 1966; Gutmann and Peters, 1973; Maglio, 1972). However, many functional morphologists feel obliged to ask how and when historical and dynamic aspects are to be included in their methods and ideas (Crompton, 1963; Dullemeijer, 1970; Gans, 1960, 1969; Liem, 1970, 1973; Liem and Stewart, 1976). Since the two positions have completely different objectives, their approaches to the relation between functional morphology and evolution will be essentially different. In the first approach functional morphology is used as a method to explain evolution. The reverse holds for the second approach: functional morphology includes evolutionary aspects in its explanation hence evolutionary study becomes a method. This means that the same phenomenon (e.g. evolution) is to be explained in one approach and serves as an explanation in the other. It is difficult to synthesize both approaches, because a synthesis would mean replacing the explanation with the explaining theory. In other words, a synthesis between the two approaches would be tautological.


Evolutionary Study Functional Component Inductive Method Functional Morphology Cichlid Fish 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1977

Authors and Affiliations

  • P. Dullemeijer
    • 1
  • C. D. N. Barel
    • 1
  1. 1.Zoologisch LaboratoriumUniversity of LeidenThe Netherlands

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