Richard Owen’s archetype

Caricature of Richard Owen. "Old Bones" <em>Vanity Fair</em>, March 1st, 1873.

Caricature of Richard Owen. "Old Bones" Vanity Fair, March 1st, 1873.

I named this blog after the concept of the archetype as articulated by the Victorian naturalist Richard Owen (1804-1892). For Owen, the archetype was a representation that summed the most basic, most generalized structural arrangement common to all the members of a given group of organisms. Owen’s well-known and most important contribution to modern biological thought is, however, not his archetype concept but the clear distinction he provided between the concepts of analogy and homology. On his words:

Analogue.- A part or organ in one animal which has the same function as another part or organ in a different animal.
Homologue.- The same organ in different animals under every variety of form and function. (Owen, 1843: 374, 379)1

Homology is a concept that expresses the relationship between parts of organisms. It reflects the observation that we can identify a commonality of structure across the diversity of life. Homology thus forms the cornerstone of comparative biology.

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  1. Owen, R. 1843. Lectures on the comparative anatomy and physiology of the invertebrate animals. London: Longman Brown Green and Longmans

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Pre-Darwinian Homology

Thursday, January 22nd, 2009 | Theory | Comments Off on Pre-Darwinian Homology

In a recent post Anastasia Thanukos for bringing up the concept of common ancestry into the definition of homology. Their criticism seems a little harsh to me since, as they noted, the paper is aimed at Science teachers and it is therefore written on a “text-book” tone. This issue aside, however, I find their complain somewhat out of touch. › Continue reading

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And as we discussed last semester, the Army Ants will leave nothing but your bones.
- Tom Waits