Convergent Evolution is when different species evolve similar structures or functions despite the fact that their evolutionary ancestors were very different and very distantly related. A homoplasy or homoplastic trait refers to the similar biological trait acquired by species from different lineages.
Some examples from Biology Online:
- the wings of bats, birds, and insects evolved independently from each other but all are used to perform the function of flying;
- the complex camera eyes of vertebrates, cephalopods (squid and octopus), cubozoan jellyfish, and arthropods (insects, spiders, crustaceans) evolved separately, but all perform the function of vision;
- the smelling organs of the terrestrial coconut crab are similar to those of insects;
- the very similar shells of brachiopods and bivalve molluscs;
- prickles, thorns and spines have evolved independently to prevent or limit herbivory;
- plant hormones such as gibberellin and abscisic acid of plants and fungi;
This blog will explore these and many other examples of convergent evolution.