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In other cases, similar phenotypes evolve independently in distantly related species. For example, flight has evolved in both bats and insects, and they both have structures we refer to as wings, which are adaptations to flight. However, the wings of bats and insects have evolved from very different original structures. This phenomenon is called convergent evolution    , where similar traits evolve independently in species that do not share a common ancestry. The two species came to the same function, flying, but did so separately from each other.

These physical changes occur over enormous spans of time and help explain how evolution occurs. Natural selection acts on individual organisms, which in turn can shape an entire species. Although natural selection may work in a single generation on an individual, it can take thousands or even millions of years for the genotype of an entire species to evolve. It is over these large time spans that life on earth has changed and continues to change.

Evidence of evolution

The evidence for evolution is compelling and extensive. Looking at every level of organization in living systems, biologists see the signature of past and present evolution. Darwin dedicated a large portion of his book, On the Origin of Species , to identifying patterns in nature that were consistent with evolution, and since Darwin, our understanding has become clearer and broader.

Fossils

Fossils provide solid evidence that organisms from the past are not the same as those found today, and fossils show a progression of evolution. Scientists determine the age of fossils and categorize them from all over the world to determine when the organisms lived relative to each other. The resulting fossil record tells the story of the past and shows the evolution of form over millions of years ( [link] ). For example, scientists have recovered highly detailed records showing the evolution of humans and horses ( [link] ). The whale flipper shares a similar morphology to appendages of birds and mammals ( [link] ) indicating that these species share a common ancestor.

Photo A shows a museum display of hominid skulls that vary in size and shape. Illustration B shows five extinct species related and similar in appearance to the modern horse. The species vary in size from that of a modern horse to that of a medium-sized dog.
In this (a) display, fossil hominids are arranged from oldest (bottom) to newest (top). As hominids evolved, the shape of the skull changed. An artist’s rendition of (b) extinct species of the genus Equus reveals that these ancient species resembled the modern horse ( Equus ferus ) but varied in size.

Anatomy and embryology

Another type of evidence for evolution is the presence of structures in organisms that share the same basic form. For example, the bones in the appendages of a human, dog, bird, and whale all share the same overall construction ( [link] ) resulting from their origin in the appendages of a common ancestor. Over time, evolution led to changes in the shapes and sizes of these bones in different species, but they have maintained the same overall layout. Scientists call these synonymous parts homologous structures    .

Illustration compares a human arm, dog and bird legs, and a whale flipper. All appendages have the same bones, but the size and shape of these bones vary.
The similar construction of these appendages indicates that these organisms share a common ancestor.

Some structures exist in organisms that have no apparent function at all, and appear to be residual parts from a past common ancestor. These unused structures without function are called vestigial structures . Other examples of vestigial structures are wings on flightless birds, leaves on some cacti, and hind leg bones in whales.

Questions & Answers

name the resources to be conserved
Oreva Reply
define natural resources
Oreva
name the agencies responsible for the conservation of natural resources
Oreva
land,water,forests,
Kiiza
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Kiiza
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Peace
land ,water
Erika
explain the importance of carbon dioxide in the body
Kiiza Reply
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SAMUEL
diagram of Prokaryotic cells
Magreth Reply
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Yazi
ʜɪ
Malikie
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Malikie
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Yazi
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Joelia
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Paul
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Tafadzwa
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James
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Rons
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Israel
I'm fine James, just boredom want to finish me!!
Reine
what is a cell of a bacteria called
Sahfe Reply
what is genotype
James
genotype: this is the combination of alleles an organism has for a given characteristic..
Cosmo
what is maiotic
Gabriel Reply
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Gabriel
what are the effects of concentration gradient in the uptake of water by plant's
Harleen Reply
ls it ok if you have sex during pregnancy
Kags Reply
no
Bernard
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Yazi
Yes
Babie
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Cabdi
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kf
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REAL
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Babie
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Lamin
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Lamin
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Lamin
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Lamin
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Tony
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Lamin
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Nyakato
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george
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Lamin
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george
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Cosmo
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Cosmo
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Joelia
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Lamin
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Joelia
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Lamin
yes
James
What is the meaning of organ
Ronald Reply
tissue combined to form organ
zameer
join
Elishs
orga- these are tissues join together to perform a specific functions.
Elishs
then what are tissues
Kags
group of cells working together to perform a particular function
Harleen
tissue are group of cells put together to perform a certain goal
Bernard
What will happen when read blood cell placed in 0.5 % Nacl solution
zameer Reply
what is biology
Tariro Reply
biology is the study of living organisms
Bernard
examply is the study of.
Nantamu
biology is the study of life.
Nantamu
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Francis Reply
kidny with large and and many glomeruli are characcteristic feathure of ?
zameer
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Jesus Reply
I can't
Francis
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Francis
A cell is the basic functional unit of life.
Jael
what is a cell ?
Rabecca Reply
A cell is the basic functional unit of all organisms
Glandwell
A cell is a basic functional and structural unit of life.
Mavis
please, emphasize more on the coronary circuit
Toyyiba Reply
define the photosynthesis
Sabrinah Reply
list the type of protein
Sabrinah
sugar.glucose
Tamirat
renin,pepsin
Nyakato
peptides
Nyakato
what is photosynthesis
Francis

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Source:  OpenStax, Biology. OpenStax CNX. Feb 29, 2016 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11448/1.10
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