PhilSci Archive

Developmental causation and the problem of homology

Baum, David A. (2013) Developmental causation and the problem of homology. Philosophy and Theory in Biology, 5 (201306). pp. 1-14. ISSN 1949-0739

developmental-causation-and-the-problem-of-homology.pdf - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives.

Download (656kB)


While it is generally agreed that the concept of homology refers to individuated traits that have been inherited from common ancestry, we still lack an adequate account of trait individuation or inheritance. Here I propose that we utilize a counterfactual criterion of causation to link each trait with a developmental-causal (DC) gene. A DC gene is made up of the genetic information (which might or might not be physically contiguous in the genome) that is needed for the production of the organismic attributes that comprise the trait. I argue that individuated traits—phenes—correspond to organismic features that are caused by DC genes. Using such an approach, we can define a DC map, which shows the relations between each pair of phenes and provides a succinct summary of genotype-phenotype relationships and phenotypic complexity. Phenes in parents and offspring are judged to be homologous if their DC genes are composed of orthologous genetic factors. When comparing more distantly related organisms, traits are homologous when linked by a chain of parent-offspring homologs along the path of ancestry that links the two organisms. There are three possible ways to deal with the potential for multiple equivalent DC genes: maximal, minimal, and consensus homology. Whereas maximal homology has limited utility, the other two approaches have value and can help to guide research at the intersection of evolution and development.

Export/Citation: EndNote | BibTeX | Dublin Core | ASCII/Text Citation (Chicago) | HTML Citation | OpenURL
Social Networking:
Share |

Item Type: Published Article or Volume
Baum, David
Keywords: developmental causation, evo-devo, homology, trait individuation, trait inheritance
Depositing User: Users 15304 not found.
Date Deposited: 13 Jun 2014 16:55
Last Modified: 13 Jun 2014 16:55
Item ID: 10748
Journal or Publication Title: Philosophy and Theory in Biology
Publisher: Michigan Publishing, University of Michigan Library
Official URL:
DOI or Unique Handle: 10.3998/ptb.6959004.0005.003
Date: May 2013
Page Range: pp. 1-14
Volume: 5
Number: 201306
ISSN: 1949-0739

Monthly Views for the past 3 years

Monthly Downloads for the past 3 years

Plum Analytics

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item