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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

Scientists collect information that allows them to make evolutionary connections between 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 measures of similarity

Organisms that share similar physical features and genetic sequences tend to be more closely related than those that do not. Features that overlap both morphologically and genetically are referred to as homologous structures; the similarities stem from common evolutionary paths. For example, as shown in [link] , the bones in the wings of bats and birds, the arms of humans, and the foreleg of a horse are homologous structures. Notice the structure is not simply a single bone, but rather a grouping of several bones arranged in a similar way in each organism even though the elements of the structure may have changed shape and size.

Photo A shows a bird in flight, with a corresponding drawing of bird wing bones. Photo B shows a bat in flight with a corresponding drawing of bat wing bones. Photo C shows a horse, with a corresponding drawing of front leg bones. Photo D shows a beluga whale, with a corresponding drawing of flipper bones. Photo E shows a human arm, with a corresponding drawing of arm bones. All the limbs share common bones, analogous to the bones in the arms and fingers of humans. However, in the bat wing, 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 fused together. In the horse leg, the ulna is shortened and is fused to the radius. The hand bones are reduced to one long thick bone and the finger bones are reduced to one long thick finger with a modified nail or hoof. In the whale flipper, the humerus, ulna, and radius are very short and thick.
Bat and bird wings, the foreleg of a horse, the flipper of a whale, and the arm of a human are homologous structures, indicating that bats, birds, horses, whales, and humans share a common evolutionary past. (credit a photo: modification of work by Steve Hillebrand, USFWS; credit b photo: modification of work by U.S. BLM; credit c photo: modification of work by Virendra Kankariya; credit d photo: modification of work by Russian Gov./Wikimedia Commons)

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. For example, chimpanzees and humans, the skulls of which are shown in [link] are very similar genetically, sharing 99 percent Gibbons, A. (2012, June 13). Science Now . Retrieved from http://news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/2012/06/bonobo-genome-sequenced.html of their genes. However, chimpanzees and humans show considerable anatomical differences, including the degree to which the jaw protrudes in the adult and the relative lengths of our arms and legs.

Photo A is of a chimpanzee skull. There is a prominent ridged brow, the eye and nose area is quite flat, and the maxilla and mandible (the jaw) protrude. Photo B is of a human skull. The cranium is proportionately larger than the chimpanzee, the brow is smooth, the nose and cheekbones are more prominent and the mandible and maxilla protrude only slightly.
(a) The chimpanzee jaw protrudes to a much greater degree than (b) the human jaw. (credit a: modification of work by "Pastorius"/Wikimedia Commons)

However, unrelated organisms may be distantly related yet appear very much alike, usually because common adaptations to similar environmental conditions evolved in both. An example is the streamlined body shapes, the shapes of fins and appendages, and the shape of the tails in fishes and whales, which are mammals. These structures bear superficial similarity because they are adaptations to moving and maneuvering in the same environment—water. When a characteristic that is similar occurs by adaptive convergence (convergent evolution), and not because of a close evolutionary relationship, it is called an analogous structure    . In another example, insects use wings to fly like bats and birds. We call them both wings because they perform the same function and have a superficially similar form, but the embryonic origin of the two wings is completely different. The difference in the development, or embryogenesis, of the wings in each case is a signal that insects and bats or birds do not share a common ancestor that had a wing. The wing structures, shown in [link] evolved independently in the two lineages.

Questions & Answers

distinguish between properties and characteristics
Elee Reply
what are organelles
what is biology
Prevail Reply
biology is science that studies life
it's the study of living and non living things
now that we have an estimate for the diameter of the cell.what estimate can we make about the volume of the cell?
faxhood Reply
why too much insulin result in low blood sugar
Leri Reply
For example, too much exercise can cost you to lose to much weight. Too much insulin will pull to much sugar out of your systemic system into your cells.
difference between DNA and RNA
Eyitayo Reply
DNA is deoxyribonuclaic acid. Deoxy refers to a lack of oxygen. The Ribose moity is missing an OH group. I think it is missing from the second C of the ring. RNA is ribonucleic acid. DNA has our genetic code in on it. RNA is translated from DNA and carries the blue print for protein synthesis.
The OH group on RNA prevents it from being reactive. But it is very unstable though. Would you want such a power tool floating around in your body, no. And you have three types of RNA: mRNA, tRNA and rRNA. Please let me know it this helped?😄
Eric answered this question perfectly
what determines the aeration level in the soil
Shola Reply
what is homeostasis?
Sarita Reply
It means balance in a biological system.
What is biology
Don Reply
Biology z the study of life
what's biology
biology is the study of living nd none living organism
Biology is the study of life
yes Sir
what's cell biology
biology is the study of life
what is asexual reproduction,?
Awoi Reply
A type of reproduction which does not involve the fusion of gametes or a change in the number of chromosomes
Reproduction without sex... In which form a single organism or cell makes a copy of itself.
Please explain the concept of mitosis and meiosis
I guess you could use it for study buddies and brushing up on what you need to
what is mitosis
Asexual reproduction?
why pepsin and trypsin released in active form?
mitosis is the type cell division in which two daughter cells have same no. of chormosomes
chromosome number remains the same in mitosis
Yrr help me.
Physical chemistry..... Koi h jo mujhe physical chem ki notes send kr ske
what is asexual reproduction
what makes golgi body in plants
Abdulkareem Reply
name the membrane of the plants
how can turners syndrome be corrected before birth
which animal survive from being preyed just because of being humble, slow, and not aggressive
Plants have golgi body's also. Plants are eukaryotic cells. And membrane bound organelles are a characteristic of eukaryotic cells. Moreover golgi body's are creatted from the ER. Also do not forget plants have plastids and animal cells do not.
During organs transplantation, the organs cannot be taken from just anybody since the graft would be rejected sooner or later due to
Liter Reply
Non-MHC compatibility on the organ and an attack from the patient's immune system.
what makes golgi body in plants
why trypsin and pepsin released in active form
Let us remember MHC'S on our cells. This is how our cells determine self from n o n s e l f. Transplanted tissue has to have a certain amount markers. These have to match to the recipiant's markers. Even with this, immunosuppresant medacine is prescribed to the recipient.
Even with these measures the body may still reject the transport. This can occur even after the recipient excepting the transport for some time.
what is integument system
Joy Reply
This system is our skin. This includes the skin lining our alimentary system which includes the tissue from our mouth to our anus. Our skin is our largest organ system. It is mostly made up of epithelial tissue.
Cellular respiration
Lucy Reply
This is how our cells make energy. They use glucose + oxygen. There are other facors involves also. But these are the main two reactant used, for aerobic respiration. The main product is ATP. ATP is a high energy molecule which is paramount for life.
what are the characteristics of living things
Ruth Reply
Movement Respiration Nutrition/Feeding Irritability/Sensitivity Growth Excretion Reproduction Deat/Life span
What makes children from the same father and mother sometimes don't look alike?
One of the main one's is the abilit reproduce. That is why viruses are not considered living. Because they do not have the ability to replicate on they own.
identification of problems
Nana Reply
what happens in the process of raising the human arms

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