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Related concept

Similiarity of corresponding parts in different organisms is determined by three


criteria:ancestary, function, or appearance. The term homology applies to two or
more features that share a common ancestry; the term analogy applies to
features with a similar function; and the term homoplasy applies to features that
simply look alike. These terms date back yo the early nineteenth century but
gained their current meaning after Darwin estabilished the teory of common
descent.
Homologous structures, more formally, are features in two or more species that
can be traced back to the same feature in a common ancestor. The birds wing
and the moles arm are homologous forelimbs, tracing their common ancestry to
reptiles. Homology recognizes similiarity based upon common, ancestral origin.
Analogous structures perform similar functions, but they may or may not have
similar ancestry, and are therefore analogous as flight devices, but neither
structure can be traced to a similar part in a common ancestor. On the other
hand, turtle and dolphin forelimbs function as paddles (analogy) and additionally
can be traced back historically to a common source (homology). Analogy
recognizes similiarity based upon similar function.
Homoplastic structures look alike and may or may not be homologous or
analogous. In addition to sharing common origin (holmology) and function also
look (analogy), turtle and dolphin flippers also look seperficially similar; they are
homoplastic as well as homologous and analogous. The most obvious examples
of homoplasy come from mimicry or camouflage, wherein as organism is, in part,
designed to cortical its presence by resembling something unartractive. Some
insects have wings shaped and sculpnured like leaves. Such wings function in
flight but not in photosynthesis (they are not analogous to leaves), and certainly
such parts share no common ancestor (they are not homologous to leaves), but
outwardly they have a similar appearance to leaves-they are homoplastic.
Analogy, homology, and homoplasy are each separate contributors to biological
design. Dolphins and bats live quite different lives, yet within their designs we
can find fundamental likenesses-hair (at least some), mammary glands,
similarities of teeth and skeleton. These homologous features shared by dolphins
and bats because both are mammals with district but common ancestary.
Dolphins and ichthyosaurus come out of quite different vertebrate ancestries; yet
they share certain likenesses-flipper in place of arms and legs, and streamlined
bodies. There are analogous features that appear in dolphins and ichthyosaurs
because both are design to meet the common hydrodynamic demands of life in
open marine waters. In this examples, convergence of design to meet common
environmental demands help account for likenesses of some locomotor features.
On the other hand, the webbing between the finger of a bat wing and the
webbing between the fingers on penguin arms have little to do with common
ancestry (bats and penguins are not closely related) or with common
environmental demands (the bat flies in air, the penguin swims in water). These
homoplastic features-they simply look alike. Thus, structural similarity can arise

in several ways. Similar function in similar habitats can produce similar forms
(analogy); common historical ancestry can carry forward shared and similar
structure ti descendants (homology); occasionally, accidents or serendipity or
other events can by chance lead to unrelated parts that simply look alike
(homoplasy).