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By the end of this section, you will be able to:
  • Compare homologous and analogous traits
  • Discuss the purpose of cladistics
  • Describe maximum parsimony

Scientists must collect accurate information that allows them to make evolutionary connections among organisms. Similar to detective work, scientists must use evidence to uncover the facts. In the case of phylogeny, evolutionary investigations focus on two types of evidence: morphologic (form and function) and genetic.

Two options for similarities

In general, organisms that share similar physical features and genomes tend to be more closely related than those that do not. Such features that overlap both morphologically (in form) and genetically are referred to as homologous structures; they stem from developmental similarities that are based on evolution. For example, the bones in the wings of bats and birds have homologous structures ( [link] ).

 Photo a shows a bird in flight with a corresponding drawing of a bird wing. Photo b is a bat in flight with a corresponding drawing of a bat wing. Both the bird wing and the bat wing share common bones, analogous to the bones in the arms and fingers of humans. However, in the bat wing, the finger bones are long and separate and form a scaffolding on which the wing’s membrane is stretched. In the bird wing, the finger bones are short and fused together at the front of the wing.
Bat and bird wings are homologous structures, indicating that bats and birds share a common evolutionary past. (credit a: modification of work by Steve Hillebrand, USFWS; credit b: modification of work by U.S. DOI BLM)

Notice it is not simply a single bone, but rather a grouping of several bones arranged in a similar way. The more complex the feature, the more likely any kind of overlap is due to a common evolutionary past. Imagine two people from different countries both inventing a car with all the same parts and in exactly the same arrangement without any previous or shared knowledge. That outcome would be highly improbable. However, if two people both invented a hammer, it would be reasonable to conclude that both could have the original idea without the help of the other. The same relationship between complexity and shared evolutionary history is true for homologous structures in organisms.

Misleading appearances

Some organisms may be very closely related, even though a minor genetic change caused a major morphological difference to make them look quite different. Similarly, unrelated organisms may be distantly related, but appear very much alike. This usually happens because both organisms were in common adaptations that evolved within similar environmental conditions. When similar characteristics occur because of environmental constraints and not due to a close evolutionary relationship, it is called an analogy    or homoplasy. For example, insects use wings to fly like bats and birds, but the wing structure and embryonic origin is completely different. These are called analogous structures ( [link] ).

Similar traits can be either homologous or analogous. Homologous structures share a similar embryonic origin; analogous organs have a similar function. For example, the bones in the front flipper of a whale are homologous to the bones in the human arm. These structures are not analogous. The wings of a butterfly and the wings of a bird are analogous but not homologous. Some structures are both analogous and homologous: the wings of a bird and the wings of a bat are both homologous and analogous. Scientists must determine which type of similarity a feature exhibits to decipher the phylogeny of the organisms being studied.

Questions & Answers

what are the two types of electron microscope
Sharlom Reply
light microscope and early microscope
Sama
Enzymes are biological catalyst which alter any reaction and protein in nature
Nkoue Reply
Thanks
Gaudi
Your welcome sir
Nkoue
guyz you enjoying
Royd
What is translation and transcription
Nkoue
Transcription is making RNA from DNA. Translation is going from RNA to proteins.
Eric
what is the definition of enzymes
Royd Reply
enzymes are biological catalyst that speed up chemical reaction.
Alale
What are enzymes?
Gaudi
Enzymes are made of proteins and lower the energy of activation. In other words, they bring things together which helps to lower the amount of energy for a reaction to go forward.
Eric
they are catalyses that speeds up chemical reaction.... e.g they break down the food we consume.
Azeez
what is a spirogyra
Talabi Reply
Spirogyra is a filamentous chlorophyte green algae of the order Zygnematales. It is named for the helical or spiral arrangement of the chloroplasts. That is characteristic of the genus. It is commonly found in freshwater habitats. And there are more than 400 species of Spirogyra in the world.
Eric
what is the mean of biology
Bello Reply
what is cell
Bello
A cell is the smallest living unit.
Eric
Hi I'm new in this group can someone please help with the list features shared by plants and charopytes that are not shared with most other eukaryotes
Wendy
what is eutrophication
Chinaza Reply
Show well labeled diagram of female reproductive organs
Lanlege Reply
phenotype is your big head
Amagiya Reply
The phenotype is the physical appearance or things you can see. Or the traits expressed by ones DNA.
Eric
phenotypes are appearance that can be seen and touched
Chidera
what is a dichotomous key
Moses Reply
explain the role of
Moses
Dichotomous key : Is the key that is use to classify or group an organism base on their common features
Alale
an amoeba is what kind of cellular organism?
Mercy Reply
It is a protizoa with bilayer membrane bound organelles. Therefore it is eukaryotic.
Eric
what is amoeba
Muhammad
amoeba is a unicellular organisms. Therefore it is made u of only one call.
Alale
what is phenotype
Muhammad
amoeba is a unicellular organism with one cell
Chinaza
name ten equipments found in soil science laboratory and their uses
AFANU Reply
daigram of connective tissue
Yunusa Reply
what is polarization
Finda Reply
in the concept of science, polarization involves light, radiation, magnetism moving in specific directions
Chidera
What is appendicular
GLORIA Reply
relating to or denoting an appendage or appendages.
Eric
Homeostasis definition
Ben Reply
can be defined as a steady of internal environment
Aliyu
MMMM!!!
Kaole
🙄
Aliyu
:-)
Kaole

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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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