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Index to Creationist Claims,  edited by Mark Isaak,    Copyright © 2005
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Claim CB710:

Evolution predicts that different kinds of organisms should have different genetic programs, but the genes responsible for major effects early in development are very similar across diverse phyla. For example, the gene distal-less gives rise to limbs in several different phyla, but the limbs themselves are not structurally or evolutionarily homologous.


Wells, Jonathan. 2000. Icons of Evolution, Washington DC: Regnery Publishing Inc., pp. 74-76.


  1. Wells's observation is quite in accord with what evolution predicts. Genes responsible for early developmental effects should not be expected to change greatly because small changes early in development produce large changes later, and those large changes are likely to be damaging. It makes more sense that the genes to change would be the ones that modify and regulate the early developmental genes. Thus, the genes that cause a limb to grow would be conserved, but many of the genes that regulate its form would not.

  2. There are significant differences between phyla, too. Although any given HOX gene (the genes that determine much of an animal's basic body plan) may be very similar between phyla, different phyla differ in which HOX genes they carry and in how many copies of each they have (Carroll 1997).

Further Reading:

Carroll, Robert L. 1997. Patterns and Processes of Vertebrate Evolution, Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press. See especially chap. 10. (technical)
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created 2001-3-31