homology (hōmŏlˈəjē) [key], in biology, the correspondence between structures of different species that is attributable to their evolutionary descent from a common ancestor. For example, the forelimbs of vertebrates, such as the wing of bird or bat, and the foreleg of an amphibian, are homologous; there is an almost identical number of bones in the limbs, and the pattern construction is identical. Homologous structures do not necessarily have to have the same function; the wings of birds and forelegs of a horse are homologous through they clearly serve different functions. Analogy is the functional similarity between structures that do not have a common origin; for example, the wings of birds and those of insects are analogous.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
See more Encyclopedia articles on: Biology: General