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The Methods of Comparative Anatomy and its Contribution to the Study of Evolution

Rainer Zangerl
Evolution
Vol. 2, No. 4 (Dec., 1948), pp. 351-374
DOI: 10.2307/2405524
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2405524
Page Count: 24
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The Methods of Comparative Anatomy and its Contribution to the Study of Evolution
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Abstract

The present essay contains a restatement of comparative morphological methodology, with particular emphasis on the content and meaning of its concepts. It further indicates the particular contribution that morphology can make to the overall discussion of problems related to evolution. 1. Morphology, like experimental sciences, has its own method. In experimental fields, it is the experiment; in morphology, it is observation and comparison. The concepts derived from these are usually called the morphological method. 2. The concepts of the morphological method are factual, since they express various relationships whose reality lies beyond the activity of the human mind. 3. The most important concepts of the morphological method are the structural plan, the morphotype, homology, the morphological series and empiric principles. 4. The concepts of the morphotype and the structural plan are closely related. The morphotype is the ideally constructed form, the norm, within a group of organisms of essentially similar structural design, from which the actual forms of that group can be ideally derived. The structural plan expresses the conformity in the topographic relationships of the parts to the whole of the morphotype. 5. The concept of homology is holistic in nature and directly related to those of the morphotype-structural plan. Kalin's definition states: 'Homology exists, if parts of different organisms correspond to each other within the common structural plan-morphotype of a given systematic category.' 6. 'Phylogenetic' homology definitions involve a circulus vitiosus and must be discarded. Function cannot be considered as a criterium in homology. 7. All concepts of the morphological method are holistic in nature, i.e. they are related to the organism as a whole. Morphology, by the very nature of this approach, can benefit the future development of theoretic thinking in biology.

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