Appendage

Appendage

[uh-pen-dij]

An appendage in the broadest sense is an additional or subsidiary part existing on, or added to, something which can generally still function if the appendage has never existed or is later provided or grown, or will still perform a primary function if the appendage is removed.

Biological context

An appendage is an external body part, or natural prolongation, that protrudes from an organism's body, such as a vertebrate's limbs.

In invertebrate biology, "appendage" is a general term that covers any of the homologous body parts that may extend from a body segment. These include antennae, mouthparts (including mandibles, maxillae and maxillipeds), wings, elytra, gills, walking legs (pereiopods), swimming legs (pleopods), sexual organs (gonopods), and parts of the tail (uropods). Typically, each body segment carries one pair of appendages.

Appendages may be uniramous, as in insects and centipedes, where each appendage comprises a single series of segments, or it may be biramous, as in many crustaceans, where each appendage branches into two sections. Triramous (branching into three) appendages are also possible.

All arthropod appendages are variations of the same basic structure (homologous), and which structure is produced is controlled by "homeobox" genes. Changes to these genes have allowed scientists to produce animals (chiefly Drosophila melanogaster) with modified appendages, such as legs instead of antennae.

Linguistic context

In British English, depending on the surrounding context, "appendage" might imply that the added words to which it refers give a more precise meaning to a name or description or else it might be used in a derogatory sense to describe an addition which appears to serve no useful function.

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