Convergent Evolution: Definition, Causes, and Examples – Evolution is defined as species change over time. There are many processes that can occur to drive evolution, including Charles Darwin’s proposed ideas on natural selection and human-created artificial selection as well as selective breeding. Some processes produce results much faster than others, but all of them lead to speciation and contribute to the diversity of life on Earth.
One way species change over time is called convergent evolution. Convergent evolution is when two species, unrelated through one recent ancestor, become more similar. Most of the time, the reason behind the convergent evolution that occurs is the increase in adaptation over time to fill a particular niche. When the same or similar niches are available in different geographic locations, different species will most likely fill those niches. Over time, adaptations that make species successful in niches in certain environments result in similar beneficial properties in very different species.
Convergent Evolution Definition
Convergent evolution is a natural selection that supports the same type of structure of different ancestors, where many species have the same traits only because of the offspring of one single ancestor.
Therefore, it is possible that the species have the same properties even though they are not related to each other.
This is because the species are in the same environment and fills a similar ecological role. The process that brings these advanced traits is called convergent evolution.
The similarities that occur between the evolution of species due to convergence are called homoplasy which means from within the same mold or in the same form.
Similarities in convergent evolution also allow lies in phenotypic levels where the lineage has the same properties, but the underlying DNA sequences are different.
Traits that arise through convergent evolution can be called analogous structures where they differ from homologous structures of common origin.
The opposite of convergent evolution is the evolution of divergence where species are interconnected but develop different traits.
Convergent Evolution Causes
The development of similar structures in unrelated organisms may be the result of adaptation to similar environments and/or similar life forms. Interestingly, the comparison of the marsupial fauna of Australia and South America, on the one hand, with their placental analogues is interesting.
Morphological and lifestyle similarities are perfect examples of convergent adaptive evolution between two lineages, marsupials and placentals, which evolved separately after the separation of the Pangea supercontinent at the end of the Cretaceous, but which show such adaptive similarities. Phalanx Gliders, Petaurus, and Glider Squirrels, Pteromyini, are examples of this convergent evolution.
Convergent Evolution Example
An example of convergent evolution is simply the following:
Pigeons and butterflies
Pigeons are birds belonging to the order of vertebrates and butterflies are insects, but both species live in the air and both have similar structures (pigeon wings fulfill the equivalent function of butterfly wings);
Dolphins and Bats
In their evolutionary process, dolphins and bats come to perform the same function, echolocation;
Birds, and some insects
The bird uses its tongue to extract nectar from flowers and the same thing happens to some insects;
Fish and mammals
Some fish have teeth that are very similar to humans or other mammals;
Bears and Bagged animals
Both bears and bagged animals have developed strong claws to better survive in their habitat.
Sharks and dolphins
The overall structure of the body is similar to the sharks and dolphins. Sharks are fish while dolphins are mammals, but their bodies have evolved to be similar. While sharks and dolphins do not have a close family relationship on the evolutionary tree, they live in the same environment.
Sugar gliders and squirrels
Another example is the adaptation to gliding found in sugar gliders and squirrels.
Sugar gliders are native to Australia, while flying squirrels are native to the United States. Both animals have the same rodent body and skin attached between their bodies and arms, which allows them to slide from trees. Both animals live in the same environment and their evolution allows them to survive using the same mechanism.