Homology, Characters, and Morphometric Data

  • Miriam Leah Zelditch
  • Donald L. Swiderski
  • William L. Fink
Part of the Topics in Geobiology book series (TGBI, volume 19)


The use of quantitative shape data in phylogenetic studies has been challenged on several grounds, the most important being that hypotheses of homology cannot apply to them. Two premises underlie that argument: (1) quantitative data comprise a single homogeneous class, and (2) qualitative and quantitative data are fundamentally different. The first premise is problematic because some morphometric variables are constrained to compare homologous features of organisms, whereas others are not. Those that are so constrained, including traditional measurement data, shape coordinates and partial warps, yield features that can be assessed for their similarities and differences, and the resulting hypotheses of homology can be tested for their congruence with the cladogram. Those variables that are not so constrained, including most outline-based variables as well as multivariate constructs such as principal components and canonical variates, may be useful tools discriminating and sorting taxa by overall similarities in shape, but not for dis-covering characters. The second premise is also problematic because the same logic and methods apply to both qualitative and quantitative data alike. Thus, if care is taken to ensure that morphometric comparisons are framed in terms of homology, there is no barrier to using quantitative variables in phylogenetic studies, especially those produced by geometric morphometrics. Not only are they tools for describing shape differences, they are also tools for understanding the evolutionary history of shape.


Canonical Variate Morphometric Data Ontogenetic Change Geometric Morphometrics Reference Form 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Miriam Leah Zelditch
    • 1
  • Donald L. Swiderski
    • 2
  • William L. Fink
    • 3
  1. 1.Museum of PaleontologyUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  2. 2.Museum of ZoologyUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  3. 3.Department of Biology and Museum of ZoologyUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA

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