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Abstract

Homology is the similarity between organisms due to common ancestry. Introduced by Richard Owen in 1843 in a paper entitled “Lectures on comparative anatomy and physiology of the invertebrate animals”, the concept of homology predates Darwin's “Origin of Species” and has been very influential throughout the history of evolutionary biology. Although homology is the central concept of all comparative biology and provides a logical basis for it, the definition of the term and the criteria of its application remain controversial. Here, I will discuss homology in the context of the hierarchy of biological organization. I will provide insights gained from an exemplary case study in evolutionary developmental biology that indicates the uncoupling of homology at different levels of biological organization. I argue that continuity and hierarchy are separate but equally important issues of homology. BioEssays 30:653–658, 2008. © 2008 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.