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What is the difference between convergent and divergent evolution?

Convergent evolution is when unrelated organisms develop similar traits due to similar environmental pressures. Divergent evolution is when related organisms develop different traits due to different environmental pressures.

Convergent evolution occurs when two unrelated organisms develop similar traits due to similar environmental pressures. This can happen when two species live in similar habitats and face similar challenges, such as predators or limited resources. For example, both dolphins and sharks have evolved streamlined bodies and fins for efficient swimming, despite being completely unrelated. Similarly, birds and bats both developed wings for flight, despite having different ancestors. For more information on how different species interact, see our notes on interactions between species.

Divergent evolution occurs when related organisms develop different traits due to different environmental pressures. This can happen when a species is split into two or more populations that are isolated from each other, and each population faces different environmental challenges. Over time, these populations will develop different traits that are better suited to their respective environments. For example, Darwin's finches on the Galapagos Islands evolved different beak shapes and sizes depending on the type of food available on each island. This process is closely related to the concept of speciation. You can also explore the underlying mechanisms of natural selection that drive divergent evolution. Additionally, understanding different species concepts can provide further insights into how these evolutionary processes occur.

A-Level Biology Tutor Summary: Convergent evolution occurs when unrelated species develop similar traits due to similar environmental pressures, like dolphins and sharks both having streamlined bodies. Divergent evolution happens when related species develop different traits due to different environments, like Darwin's finches evolving different beak shapes based on the food available on different islands.

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