3 The Ontogeny–Phylogeny Nexus in a Nutshell: Implications for Primatology and Paleoanthropology

  • Peter R. Menke
Reference work entry


This chapter aims to review the relevance of ontogenic data in an evolutionary perspective. Phylogenetic investigation through developmental information is one of the most promising avenues to the elucidation of our natural history. First, the problematic integration of biological subdisciplines into the evo-devo synthesis is considered: the homeobox as Pandora's box is discussed and the important role of a comparative morphology program is emphasized. Second, the study of development reveals essential aspects of primate supraordinal relationships and does not support an archontan reality. A special note defines the traditional superorder Archonta as (1) an artifact of the Scala naturae concept, since archontans were supreme public servants of the Greek ancient world. On the other hand, it is (2) a vehicle to explain the existence of flying mammals (Chiroptera) via a gliding intermediate stage (Dermoptera). Third, the impact of neotenic ideas on paleoanthropology is retraced and current contributions describing the evolution of the human cranial base and bipedalism are presented. Man's domination by neoteny seems to be a burlesque, accurately related as pithecocentrism.


Cranial Base Evolutionary Developmental Biology Hominid Evolution Ontogenetic Trajectory Relative Brain Size 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



I am very grateful to Winfried Henke, Hartmut Rothe, and Ian Tattersall for inviting me to contribute. For intellectual support, I would like to thank Winfried Henke. Special thanks to Ian Tattersall for improving my pseudo-English manuscript, and I am very grateful to Jeffrey H. Schwartz for important comments. For inviting me to study Cynocephalus volans and for enriching discussions thanks to Wolfgang Maier from the Institute of Systematic Zoology in Tübingen. Thanks also to Gerhard Storch, John R. Wible, Christian Kummer SJ, and Thorolf Hardt. The postgraduate financial support of the Johannes Gutenberg-University Mainz is gratefully acknowledged. Finally, Dankeschön to all my loved ones.


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