Home » Biology » Evolution » Convergent evolution

Convergent evolution

Content objective:

What are we learning and why are we learning this? Content, procedures, or skills.

Vocabulary objective

Tier II: converge, analogous

Tier III: Low frequency, domain specific terms.

Building on what we already know

Make connections to prior knowledge. This is where we build from.


Convergent evolution occurs when two species, from unrelated lines, develop the same traits or features.

This happens because they live in similar habitats, and developed solutions (adaptations) to the same kind of problems (environmental conditions.)

Convergent evolution leads to analogous features.

What is an analogy? An analogy is a comparison between two objects, that highlights ways in which they are similar.

Types of analogies

Analogous structures look similar to each other, and even do similar jobs, but they did not evolve from a common structure – they evolved independently.

Consider the evolution of wings in bats, birds, and ancient flying reptiles. They evolved through convergent evolution.

“It is important to distinguish between different levels of homology, in order to make informative biological comparisons: bird and bat wings are analogous as wings, but homologous as forelimbs. Why? Because the organ served as a forearm (not a wing) in the last common ancestor of tetrapods.” {http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homology_(biology)

Placental mammals vs Marsupial Mammaps

Convergent evolution
{ from http://animalwise.org/2011/09/26/converging-with-canines-are-humans-and-dogs-evolving-together/ }

Convergence of two different families of mammals.

Marsupial Eutherian mammals convergent evoluion

Example 2


Example of convergent evolution in four different animals from around the globe. They may look similar, but it’s not because they’re close relatives. Instead, they’ve evolved similar adaptations because they occupy similar niches — dining on ants, hunting in the high grass, or swimming in the dark — although their evolutionary origins are quite different.

Credits: Courtesy of Michael Rothman. PBS Evolution website

Plenty more examples 🙂

Convergent evolution in vertebrates: Three solutions to flight.
John R. Hutchinson (Regents of the University of California

Possibly the most amazing example of convergent evolution among vertebrates is the evolution of flight in three different taxa. In their similarities, we see indications of common constraints imposed by the phylogeny and the biomechanics of organisms.

In their differences, we see how evolution has taken unique routes to comply with these constraints, resulting in different functional patterns. The evolution of flight is a classic example of macroevolution — the fossil record shows that once powered flight is attained, flying lineages tend to evolve quickly and radiate into diverse niches. You might be surprised, but the evolution of flight is, for the most part, well documented with transitional forms. Let’s investigate the origin and evolution of flight in our representative taxa: the Pterosauria (pterosaurs), Aves (birds), and Chiroptera (bats).

…You should also have a firm grasp of the procedure used for determining the origins of flight in a lineage.

Pterosaurian Flight
Avian Flight
Chiropteran Flight

How birds and flowers interacted, and caused different flowers to converge on a similar appearance: from Understanding Evolution http://evolution.berkeley.edu/


Walkinator simulated biomechanical evolution



%d bloggers like this: