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What are examples of convergent evolution?

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Quick Answer

An example of convergent evolution is the similar overall body structure of sharks and dolphins. The shark is a fish while the dolphin is a mammal, but their bodies have evolved to become similar. Another example is the adaptations for gliding found in both sugar gliders and flying squirrels.

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While sharks and dolphins have no close family relationship in the evolutionary tree, they live in similar environments. Natural selection causes each of these species to evolve similarly. They need fins for swimming and a long sleek body to move through the water, yet sharks receive their oxygen through gills while dolphins must surface to breathe.

Sugar gliders are native to Australia, while flying squirrels are from the United States. Both animals have similar rodent bodies and skin attached between their body and forearm, allowing them to glide from trees. These two animals live in similar environments and their evolution allows them to survive using similar mechanisms.

Convergent evolution is not limited to the animal kingdom. Desert plants often evolve to develop water-holding chambers for survival in the arid region. While the plants of the American and African deserts are not closely related, they have similar evolutionary traits that have developed from separate branches of the evolutionary tree.

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Related Questions

  • Q:

    What is divergent evolution?

    A:

    Divergent evolution is the mechanism that causes different species to arise from common ancestors, the evolution toward greater difference in related organisms. In the classification system it is a part of, it is one of three types of evolution, the others being convergent evolution and coevolution. None of these types are truly separate, and in almost any case of convergent evolution or coevolution, divergent evolution is also occurring.

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  • Q:

    What is organic evolution?

    A:

    Organic evolution are the events involved in the evolutionary development of a species. It means that all life descended from other life, although features may have changed dramatically along the way.

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  • Q:

    What is the theory of evolution?

    A:

    The theory of evolution proposed by Charles Darwin entails the evolution by natural selection of all life on earth. It states that new generations are born with different inheritable traits, and that the traits that are superior for survival will be passed on to new generations. This means that given enough time, an organism can change and evolve to create a new species.

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  • Q:

    How does Lamarck's theory of evolution differ from Darwin's?

    A:

    Lamarck's theory of evolution differs from Darwin's in its premise that adaptations appear when needed in response to the environment and the acquired traits are then passed on to offspring. Genetic research, however, has shown that living organisms cannot alter their genetic material as needed. Darwin's theory differs from Lamarck's by describing evolution as a consequence of the environment instead of a response to it.

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