Morphology (biology)

Morphology (biology)

Overview
In biology
Biology
Biology is a natural science concerned with the study of life and living organisms, including their structure, function, growth, origin, evolution, distribution, and taxonomy. Biology is a vast subject containing many subdivisions, topics, and disciplines...

, morphology is a branch of bioscience dealing with the study of the form and structure of organisms and their specific structural features.

This includes aspects of the outward appearance (shape, structure, colour, pattern) as well as the form and structure of the internal parts like bones and organs. This is in contrast to physiology
Physiology
Physiology is the science of the function of living systems. This includes how organisms, organ systems, organs, cells, and bio-molecules carry out the chemical or physical functions that exist in a living system. The highest honor awarded in physiology is the Nobel Prize in Physiology or...

, which deals primarily with function. Morphology is a branch of life science dealing with the study of gross structure of an organism or Taxon
Taxon
|thumb|270px|[[African elephants]] form a widely-accepted taxon, the [[genus]] LoxodontaA taxon is a group of organisms, which a taxonomist adjudges to be a unit. Usually a taxon is given a name and a rank, although neither is a requirement...

 and its component parts.

The word "morphology" is from the Greek μορφή, morphé = form and λόγος, lógos = word, study, research.
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Encyclopedia
In biology
Biology
Biology is a natural science concerned with the study of life and living organisms, including their structure, function, growth, origin, evolution, distribution, and taxonomy. Biology is a vast subject containing many subdivisions, topics, and disciplines...

, morphology is a branch of bioscience dealing with the study of the form and structure of organisms and their specific structural features.

This includes aspects of the outward appearance (shape, structure, colour, pattern) as well as the form and structure of the internal parts like bones and organs. This is in contrast to physiology
Physiology
Physiology is the science of the function of living systems. This includes how organisms, organ systems, organs, cells, and bio-molecules carry out the chemical or physical functions that exist in a living system. The highest honor awarded in physiology is the Nobel Prize in Physiology or...

, which deals primarily with function. Morphology is a branch of life science dealing with the study of gross structure of an organism or Taxon
Taxon
|thumb|270px|[[African elephants]] form a widely-accepted taxon, the [[genus]] LoxodontaA taxon is a group of organisms, which a taxonomist adjudges to be a unit. Usually a taxon is given a name and a rank, although neither is a requirement...

 and its component parts.

Term


The word "morphology" is from the Greek μορφή, morphé = form and λόγος, lógos = word, study, research. The biological concept of morphology was developed by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was a German writer, pictorial artist, biologist, theoretical physicist, and polymath. He is considered the supreme genius of modern German literature. His works span the fields of poetry, drama, prose, philosophy, and science. His Faust has been called the greatest long...

 (1790) and independently by the German anatomist and physiologist Karl Friedrich Burdach (1800).

In English-speaking countries, the term "molecular morphology" has been used for some time for describing the structure of compound molecules, such as polymers
and RNA. The term "gross morphology" refers to the collective structures or an organism as a whole as a general description of the form and structure of an organism, taking into account all of its structures without specifying an individual structure.

Branches of morphology

  • Comparative Morphology is analysis of the patterns of the locus of structures within the body plan of an organism, and forms the basis of taxonomical catorization.

  • Functional Morphology is the study of the relationship between the structure and function of morphological features.

  • Experimental Morphology is study of the effects of external factors upon the morphology of organisms under experimental conditions, such as the effect of genetic mutation.


The field of morphology is divided into two distinct branches.
  • "Anatomy
    Anatomy
    Anatomy is a branch of biology and medicine that is the consideration of the structure of living things. It is a general term that includes human anatomy, animal anatomy , and plant anatomy...

    " is the study of the form and structure of internal features of an organism.

  • "Eidonomy
    Eidonomy
    Eidonomy is the study of the external appearance of an organism. It is thus the opposite to anatomy, which refers to internal morphology.While predominant early in the history of biology it is little studied in particular anymore as it is ripe with the effects of convergent evolution...

    " is the study of the form and structure of the external features of an organism.

Morphology and classification


Most taxa differ morphologically from other taxa. Typically, closely related taxa differ much less than more distantly related ones, but there are exceptions to this. Cryptic species are species
Species
In biology, a species is one of the basic units of biological classification and a taxonomic rank. A species is often defined as a group of organisms capable of interbreeding and producing fertile offspring. While in many cases this definition is adequate, more precise or differing measures are...

 which look very similar, or perhaps even outwardly identical, but are reproductively isolated. Conversely, sometimes unrelated taxa acquire a similar appearance as a result of convergent evolution
Convergent evolution
Convergent evolution describes the acquisition of the same biological trait in unrelated lineages.The wing is a classic example of convergent evolution in action. Although their last common ancestor did not have wings, both birds and bats do, and are capable of powered flight. The wings are...

 or even mimicry. A further problem with relying on morphological data is that what may appear, morphologically speaking, to be two distinct species, may in fact be shown by DNA analysis to be a single species. The significance of these differences can be examined through the use of allometric engineering
Allometric engineering
Allometric engineering is the process of experimentally shifting the scaling relationships of a population. More specifically, the process of experimentally breaking the tight covariance evident among component traits of a complex phenotype by altering the variance of one trait relative to another....

 in which one or both species are manipulated to phenocopy the other species.

See also

  • Apomorphy
  • Comparative anatomy
    Comparative anatomy
    Comparative anatomy is the study of similarities and differences in the anatomy of organisms. It is closely related to evolutionary biology and phylogeny .-Description:...

  • Insect morphology
    Insect morphology
    The morphology of insects enables the phenomenal success of this class of arthropods. The sheer quantity and diversity of its taxa are matched by a large variation of modifications in its body structure. The high rate of speciation, short generations and long lineage have caused insects to evolve...

  • Morphometrics
    Morphometrics
    Morphometrics refers to the quantitative analysis of form, a concept that encompasses size and shape. Morphometric analyses are commonly performed on organisms, and are useful in analyzing their fossil record, the impact of mutations on shape, developmental changes in form, covariances between...

  • Neuromorphology
    Neuromorphology
    Neuromorphology is the study of nervous system form, shape, and structure. The study of its structure includes looking at the organ system from a physiological and anatomical point of view, as well as on a molecular and cellular level...

  • Phenetics
    Phenetics
    In biology, phenetics, also known as taximetrics, is an attempt to classify organisms based on overall similarity, usually in morphology or other observable traits, regardless of their phylogeny or evolutionary relation. It is closely related to numerical taxonomy which is concerned with the use of...

  • Phenotype
    Phenotype
    A phenotype is an organism's observable characteristics or traits: such as its morphology, development, biochemical or physiological properties, behavior, and products of behavior...

  • Plant morphology
    Plant morphology
    Plant morphology or phytomorphology is the study of the physical form and external structure of plants. This is usually considered distinct from plant anatomy, which is the study of the internal structure of plants, especially at the microscopic level...

  • Plesiomorphy