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Related to recapitulation: recapitulation theory


theory, stated as the biogenetic law by E. H. HaeckelHaeckel, Ernst Heinrich
, 1834–1919, German biologist and philosopher. He taught (1862–1909) at the Univ. of Jena. An early exponent of Darwinism in Germany, he evolved a mechanistic form of monism based on his interpretation of Darwin's theories and set forth in his
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, that the embryological development of the individual repeats the stages in the evolutionary development of the species. For example, the beginnings of gill clefts appear in both humans and fish, but while they are elaborated and eventually function in the fish, in humans, except for the modified gill cleft that becomes the Eustachian tube, they disappear as the embryo develops. Though drastically modified and qualified since its proposal, the historical significance of this theory—"ontogenesis recapitulates phylogenesis"—is that with its appearance it lent support to the theory of evolutionevolution,
concept that embodies the belief that existing animals and plants developed by a process of gradual, continuous change from previously existing forms. This theory, also known as descent with modification, constitutes organic evolution.
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 by seeming to corroborate it.



in biology, the repetition of the characteristics of remote ancestors in the ontogeny of existing organisms, specifically, in their structures, chemistry, and functions. The recapitulation theory was first formulated in 1859 by C. Darwin. The theory of phylembryogenesis, proposed by A. N. Severtsov, interpreted recapitulation in more morphological terms. The modern recapitulation theory was elaborated by I. I. Shmal’gauzen.

Recapitulation depends on the presence of a complex system of correlations in the organism and frequently manifests itself in the developmental peculiarities of interrelated organs and structures. Recapitulation results from shifts in the final formative stages of certain organs and not of the organism as a whole. These shifts represent extensions that arise from new correlations, which are introduced in ontogeny after the realization of basic morphogenetic processes.

There are many examples of recapitulation. In the embryos of land vertebrates, gill slits develop that correspond to the gill slits of their fishlike ancestors. In the ontogeny of higher vertebrates the succession of pronephros, mesonephros, and meta-nephros recapitulates the sequence of development of excretory organs in the phylogeny of their ancestors. In pteridophytes the dichotomous branching of their first fronds recapitulates the di-chotomous branching characteristic of their ancestors-Paleozoic psilophytes. During metamorphosis, the vision of frogs is dependent on the use of vitamin A2, just as in freshwater fish. By the time metamorphosis is completed, their vision is dependent on the use of vitamin A1, which is characteristic of land vertebrates.


Severtsov, A. N. Morfologicheskie zakonomernosti evoliutsii, Moscow-Leningrad, 1939.
Shmal’gauzen, I. I. Organizm, kak tseloe ν individual’nom i istoricheskom razvitii. Moscow-Leningrad, 1938.
Mirzoian, E. N. Razvitie ucheniia o rekapituliatsii. Moscow, 1974.



1. Biology the apparent repetition in the embryonic development of an animal of the changes that occurred during its evolutionary history
2. Music the repeating of earlier themes, esp when forming the final section of a movement in sonata form
References in periodicals archive ?
Research in human embryology shows that Haeckel's theory of recapitulation is incorrect.
The moment of recapitulation in Beethoven's sonatas can perhaps be compared to the return from a voyage to distant lands.
He argues that the movement is both a reversed and a subdominant recapitulation acting "in excessive haste" throughout.
25) emphasized its presence as a purely structural device to divide the novel in half and found it tempting to think that the recapitulation would have headed the second of two papyrus rolls between which a copy of the novel would have been divided.
The book is a recapitulation of the ominous lines which were headlined in national dailies but got lost in the exuberance between the opening and closing ceremonies.
Organ-specific extracellular matrices, properly prepared, are serving more and more as the appropriate structural scaffold for the recapitulation of a specific organ's tissues.
com, the 10-page comic rewrites the captions in English to reflect the events of 2009 rather than the original books' recapitulation of the 1979 revolution.
Rationality, orderly exposition, theme and variation, recapitulation, coda, all perish and what emerges beguiles audiences in the same way time-lapse photography of a flower enthralls the listener/viewer.
In the second phrase of the recapitulation, the motive of the left-hand melody is immediately reflected in the accompanying counterpoint of the right hand.
The context is a discussion of Irenaeus' concept of recapitulation.
Ernst Haeckel's doctrine of embryonic recapitulation (that ontogeny provides a brief review of phylogeny) seems a harmless enough topic; however, few biologists have remained neutral to it (Blackwell, 2001).
The longest story, a fictionalized recapitulation of the life of Alexander Hamilton, is told in three successive parts.