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Agassiz, Louis – Essay on Classification – The correspondence in the details of structure in animals otherwise entirely disconnected

Identifier

024949

Type of Spiritual Experience

Background

Different designs for FORM that have been produced for the same FUNCTION.

A description of the experience

ESSAY ON CLASSIFICATION  By LOUIS AGASSIZ  

CORRESPONDENCE IN THE DETAILS OF STRUCTURE IN ANIMALS OTHERWISE ENTIRELY DISCONNECTED

During the first decade of this century naturalists began to study relations among animals which had escaped almost entirely the attention of earlier observers. Though Aristotle knew already that the scales of fishes correspond to the feathers of birds, it is but recently that anatomists have discovered the close correspondence which exists between all the parts of all animals belonging to the same type, however different they may appear at first sight. Not only is the wing of the bird identical in its structure with the arm of man or the fore leg of a quadruped, it agrees quite as closely with the fin of the whale or the pectoral fin of the fish, and all these together correspond in the same manner with their hind extremities. Quite as striking a coincidence is observed between the solid skull-box, the immovable bones of the face and the lower jaw of man and the other mammalia, and the structure of the bony frame of the head of birds, turtles, lizards, snakes, frogs, and fishes. But this correspondence is not limited to the skeleton; every other system of organs exhibits in these animals the same relations, the same identity in plan and structure, whatever be the differences in the form of the parts, in their number, and even in their functions. Such an agreement in the structure of animals is called their homology and is more or less close in proportion as the animals in which it is traced are more or less nearly related.

The same agreement exists between the different systems and their parts in Articulata, in Mollusks, and in Radiata, only that their structure is built up upon respectively different plans, though in these three types the homologies have not yet been traced to the same extent as among Vertebrata. …… every great type is constructed upon a distinct plan, so peculiar, indeed, that homologies cannot be extended from one type to the other but are strictly limited within each of them.

The more remote resemblance which may be traced between representatives of different types is founded upon analogy and not upon affinity.

…. What is commonly called head in Insects is not a head like that of Vertebrata; it has not a distinct cavity for the brain, separated from that which communicates below the neck with the chest and abdomen; its solid envelope does not consist of parts of an internal skeleton, surrounded by flesh, but is formed of external rings, like those of the body, soldered together; it contains but one cavity, which includes the cephalic ganglion, as well as the organs of the mouth and all the muscles of the head. The same may be said of the chest, the legs and wings, the abdomen, and all the parts they contain. The cephalic ganglion is not homologous to the brain, nor are the organs of senses homologous to those of Vertebrata, even though they perform the same functions. …..

What is true of the branch of Articulata when compared to that of Vertebrata is equally true of the Mollusks and Radiata when compared with one another or with the two other types, as might easily be shown by a fuller illustration of the correspondence of their structure within these limits…..

….If it be true, as pointed out above, that all animals are constructed upon four different plans of structure, in such a manner that all the different kinds of animals are only different expressions of these fundamental formulae, we may well compare the whole animal kingdom to a work illustrating four great ideas.

 

The source of the experience

Agassiz, Louis

Concepts, symbols and science items

Symbols

Tree of life

Science Items

Activities and commonsteps

Activities

Commonsteps

References