Skip to main content
Social Sci LibreTexts

2.10: Analogy vs. Homology

  • Page ID
  • \( \newcommand{\vecs}[1]{\overset { \scriptstyle \rightharpoonup} {\mathbf{#1}} } \) \( \newcommand{\vecd}[1]{\overset{-\!-\!\rightharpoonup}{\vphantom{a}\smash {#1}}} \)\(\newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\) \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\) \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\) \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\) \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \(\newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\) \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\) \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\) \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\) \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\)\(\newcommand{\AA}{\unicode[.8,0]{x212B}}\)

    When I'm swimming in the ocean and see a vertical fin above the water in the distance, I always freak out and think it's a shark even though it always turns out to be dolphins. Dolphins evolved from a four-legged mammal that might have looked something like a hippo, and the dolphin's fin and the shark's fin are coded for by totally different genes, and have totally different evolutionary pathways. Traits that look the same but evolved separately are called analogies.

    Homologies are traits that share a common evolutionary pathway and the same genes that code for them. The range of morphology of vertebrate forelimbs is incredible, but they all have the same genetic source, and thus share most of the same bones.


    Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\) - Homologous vertebrate forelimbs

    When you see two species with similar traits, the first question is are they similar because they had the same ancestors (parallel) or they had different ancestors and evolved in similar environments.


    Figure \(\PageIndex{2}\) - Parallel vs. convergent evolution


    Figure \(\PageIndex{3}\) - Convergent evolution for water, ichthyosaur vs dolphin by Sceptic view from Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0)

    Example \(\PageIndex{1}\):

    Convergent evolution: echolocation in bats and dolphins

    This page titled 2.10: Analogy vs. Homology is shared under a CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Arnie Daniel Schoenberg via source content that was edited to the style and standards of the LibreTexts platform; a detailed edit history is available upon request.