Similarity of the structure, physiology, or development of different species of organisms based on their descent from a common evolutionary ancestor. Analogy, by contrast, is a functional similarity of structure that is based not on common evolutionary origins but on mere similarity of use. The forelimbs of such widely differing mammals as humans, bats, and deer are homologous; the form of construction and the number of bones in each are practically identical and represent adaptive modifications of the forelimb structure of their shared ancestor. The wings of birds and insects, on the other hand, are merely analogous; they are used for flight in both types of organisms but do not share a common ancestral origin.

This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
For the full entry on homology, visit Britannica.com.

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