Biogenetic Law

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The biogenetic law also known as the theory of recapitulation, was proposed by Ernst Haeckel in 1860s, after reading through Darwin’s ‘The Theory Of Evolution’. It is a historical theory stating that the embryogenesis of an animal from fertilization to ontogeny moves through various stages which are similar to successive adult stages in the phylogeny. It is also known as the Meckel-Serres law formulated by Etienne Serres on the work of Johann Friedrich Meckel. As the name suggests (recapitulation theory), it is commonly mentioned as ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny.

It hypothesizes that the various phases an animal embryo undergoes during development are a sequential replay of that species’ past ancestral forms. It states that an embryo’s developmental stage depicts an adult form of an ancestor post-evolution. As per the law, a careful analysis of the phases of development of an embryo fuels the process of diversification of life and studying history.

It suggested that specialists could analyze the evolutionary association between taxonomic groups by drawing similarities from entities from the taxa and developmental phases of embryos. Additionally, the confirmation from embryology reinforced the theory that all species have evolved from a common ancestor.

Further Reading: Natural Selection And Biological Evolution


It is the origination and evolution of an entity, from the egg-fertilization stage up until the formation of a mature individual. It refers to the developmental history of an entity with its own lifetime. Developmental processes can have an impact on the succeeding evolutionary levels, as individual entities grow while species evolve. In cell biology, Ontogeny is used to brief about the growth of various types of cells within an entity.


It refers to the evolutionary history of a species. A phylogenetic tree is used to display the evolutionary relationship between various species and other biological entities which are based on differences and similarities in their genetic and physical traits. It is indicated through the tree that all life on Earth is from common ancestry. Hence it is based on the assumption that more closely related species are more similar to one another. The tools divide phylogenetic trees and environmental layers with occurrence data of species facilitating relatively newer perspectives on biodiversity.

Applications Of Biogenetic Law

The recapitulation law can be relevant and applied to some fields.

Field Of Art
The principle can be applied to create and recast art history.

Cognitive Development

Researchers confirm that the phases in the child’s cognitive development and biological evolution are on the same lines as the development of the evolutionary stages proposed in history. For more information on Biogenetic Law and related topics, register at BYJU’S.

Related Links: Darwin’s Contribution: The Theory of Evolution

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