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In biology morphology is the form, structure and configuration of an organism.[1][2] 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, which deals primarily with function.

Morphology is a branch of life science dealing with the study of gross structure of an organism or taxon and its component parts.



The term of Morphology is from Greek μορφή, morphé = shape, form and λόγος, lógos = word, study, reserch. The concept of Morphology is devised by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1790) and independently by a German anatomist and physiologist de:Karl Friedrich Burdach (1800).

In the Anglo-American language-area, they talk even "molecular morphology" since some years, as the shape-description of macro-molecules like ribosomaler RNA. In German-language countries they reserved the morphology term for structures above the molecular level.

Also in use is the term "gross morphology", which refers to the prominent or principal aspects of an organism or taxon's morphology. A description of an organism's gross morphology would include, for example, its overall shape, overall colour, main markings etc. but not finer details.

Branches of morphology

  • With the comparative morphology they tries to recognize patterns as well as characteristics of an orgamism group, and if necessary, they classify organisms into taxa by derived from its characteristics.
  • Functional morphology is to examine a structure for a certain function.
  • In the experimental morphology is usually reserches the development of an organism in condition of experiments.

On the other hand, it can be subdivided into two distinct branches.

  • Anatomy is the study of the structure and internal organs of an organism.
  • The study of the external appearance of an organism is called eidonomy, but 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. It thus yields less new information about organisms than anatomy, and therefore the external appearance of lifeforms is usually studied as part of general investigations in morphology, e.g. in the context of phylogenetic research.

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 which look very similar, or perhaps even outwardly identical, but are reproductively isolated. Conversely, sometimes unrelated taxa acquire similar appearance through convergent evolution or even through 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.

See also


  1. ^ "Morphology". Retrieved 2009-04-09.  
  2. ^ "morphology". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 2009-04-09.  

Simple English

For other uses, see Morphology.

The word "morphology" is from the Greek μορφή, morphé = form and λόγος, lógos = word, study, research. The concept of morphology was developed by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1790) and independently by the German anatomist and physiologist Karl Friedrich Burdach (1800).

Morphology is a branch of bioscience dealing with the study of the form and structure[1][2][3][4][5][6][7] of organisms and their specific structural features.

In general use, the word morphology refers to the form and structure an organism as a whole, which includes all internal and external structures. Because the word "morph" refers to form and is descriptive of structural design, traits such as color, pattern, and size are cosmetic and therefore not morphological because they are descriptive of visual perception and not physical structure. While shape is related to morphology in that structures have form, shape alone is not morphological without reference to structure because structural design is not dependant upon shape. This can be understood by considering an example consisting of two simple toy cars which are comprised of a plastic body, two axles, and four wheels. Though they may be shaped very differently, the components have the same function and location within the models. There is therefore no morphological difference between them despite a difference in shape. In this way, morphology is strictly limited to form and structure.

In English-speaking countries, the term "molecular morphology" has been used for some time for describing the structure of compound molecules, such as polymers [8] 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 it's structures without specifying an individual structure.



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