Are the membranes present between the fetal fingers and toes a remainder of the phylogenetic evolution, or just a way organs do grow most easily?
The transient membranes between the fingers and toes in embryos are a myth.
The presence of transient membranes in developing embryos supposedly points to our fishy evolutionary origins. However, I couldn't find any credible sources to support this myth. In fact, I couldn't find any source mentioning the presence of webbing between the fingers and toes at any stage during development.
To support this lack of evidence, I have posted several photos of embryos and fetuses in various developmental stages. None show any signs of the "swimming webs". Note that the age mentioned is the developmental age, counted from the moment of conception (add 2 weeks to have gestational age):
Fig. 1. Five-week embryo. source: Palm Reading Perspectives
Fig. 2. Seven-week embryo. source: Wikipedia
Fig. 3. Eight-week embryo. source: WemMD
Fig. 4. Fourteen-week foetus. source: WemMD
Fig. 5. Eighteen-week foetus. source: WemMD
Fig. 2 may seem to show some webbing, but if we look at some close-ups of the hand and feet at week 7 in Fig. 6 below, we can see that there is no real webbing; fingers and toes are simply budding from the primordial hand and foot structures.
Fig. 6. Developmental stages of the hand and feet around week 7. source: I am Pregnant
Note that an embryo is called a fetus only after the first trimester, i.e. after some 12 weeks. There is certainly not any sign of webbings in healthy fetuses.
Original photographic image source (Figs 1 & 5)*
- Nilsson, Ett Barn Blir Till
* Credits go to rg255