List of Examples of Convergent Evolution - in Animals - Mammals


  • Several groups of ungulates have independently reduced or lost side digits on their feet, often leaving one or two digits for walking. That name comes from their hooves, which have evolved from claws several times. Among familiar animals, horses have one walking digit and domestic bovines two. Various other land vertebrates have also reduced or lost digits.
  • The pronghorn of North America, while not a true antelope and only distantly related to them, closely resembles the true antelopes of the Old World, both behaviorally and morphologically. It also fills a similar ecological niche and is found in the same biomes.
  • Members of the two clades Australosphenida and theria evolved tribosphenic molars independently.
  • The marsupial thylacine (Tasmanian Tiger) had many resemblances to the placental canids.
  • Several mammal groups have independently evolved prickly protrusions of the skin – echidnas (monotremes), the insectivorous hedgehogs, some tenrecs (a diverse group of shrew-like Madagascan mammals), Old World porcupines (rodents) and New World porcupines (another biological family of rodents). In this case, because the two groups of porcupines are closely related, they would be considered to be examples of parallel evolution; however, neither echidnas, nor hedgehogs, nor tenrecs are close relatives of the Rodentia. In fact, the last common ancestor of all of these groups was a contemporary of the dinosaurs.
  • Cat-like sabre-toothed predators evolved in three distinct lineages of mammals – sabre-toothed cats, Nimravids ("false" sabre-tooths), and the marsupial "lion" Thylacosmilus. Gorgonopsids and creodonts also developed long canine teeth, but with no other particular physical similarities.
  • A number of mammals have developed powerful fore claws and long, sticky tongues that allow them to open the homes of social insects (e.g., ants and termites) and consume them (myrmecophagy). These include the four species of anteater, more than a dozen armadillos, eight species of pangolin (plus fossil species), the African aardvark, one echidna (an egg-laying monotreme), the enigmatic Fruitafossor, the singular Australian marsupial known as the numbat, the aberrant aardwolf, and possibly also the sloth bear of South Asia, all not related.
  • Koalas of Australasia have evolved fingerprints, indistinguishable from those of humans.
  • The Australian honey possums acquired a long tongue for taking nectar from flowers, a structure similar to that of butterflies, some moths, and hummingbirds, and used to accomplish the very same task.
  • Marsupial sugar glider and squirrel glider of Australia are like the placental flying squirrel. Both lineages have independently developed wing-like flaps (patagia) for leaping from trees, and big eyes for foraging at night.
  • The North American kangaroo rat, Australian hopping mouse, and North African and Asian jerboa have developed convergent adaptations for hot desert environments; these include a small rounded body shape with very large hind legs and long thin tails, a characteristic bipedal hop, and nocturnal, burrowing and seed-eating behaviours. These rodent groups fill similar niches in their respective ecosystems.
  • Opossums have evolved an opposable thumb, a feature which is also commonly found in the non-related primates.
  • Marsupial mole has many resemblances to the placental mole.
  • Marsupial mulgara has many resemblances to the placental mouse.
  • Planigale has many resemblances to the deer mouse.
  • Marsupial Tasmanian devil has many resemblances to the placental hyena. Similar skull morphology, large canines and crushing carnasial molars.
  • Kangaroo has many resemblances to the Patagonian cavy and Hares.
  • The Marsupial lion had retractable claws, the same way the placental felines (cats) do today.
  • Microbats, toothed whales and shrews developed sonar-like echolocation systems used for orientation, obstacle avoidance and for locating prey. Modern DNA phylogenies of bats have shown that the traditional suborder of echolocating bats (Microchiroptera) is not a true clade, and instead some echolocating bats are more related to non-echolocating Old World fruit bats than to other echolocating species. The implication is that echolocation in at least two lineages of bats, Megachiroptera and Microchiroptera has evolved independently or been lost in Old World fruit bats.
  • Echolocation in bats and whales also both necessitate high frequency hearing. The protein prestin, which confers high hearing sensitivity in mammals, shows molecular convergence between the two main clades of echolocating bats, and also between bats and dolphins. Other hearing genes also show convergence between echolocating taxa.
  • Both the aye-aye lemur and the striped possum have an elongated finger used to get invertebrates from trees. There are no woodpeckers in Madagascar or Australia where the species evolved, so the supply of invertebrates in trees was large.
  • Castorocauda and beaver both have webbed feet and a flattened tail, but are not related.
  • Prehensile tails came in to a number of unrelated species New World monkeys, kinkajous, porcupines, tree-anteaters, marsupial opossums, and the salamander Bolitoglossa pangolins, treerats, skinks and chameleons.
  • Pig form, large-headed, pig-snouted and hoofs are independent in true pigs in Eurasia and peccary and entelodonts.
  • Tapirs and pigs look much alike, but tapirs are perissodactyls (odd-toed ungulates) and pigs are artiodactyls (even-toed ungulates).
  • Plankton feeding filters, like baleen: baleen whales like the humpback and blue whale, the whale shark, the basking shark, and the Mesozoic bony fish Leedsichthys have separately evolved ways of sifting plankton from marine waters.
  • There are five species of river/freshwater dolphins, which are not closely related.
  • Platypus have what looks like a bird's beak (hence its scientific name “Ornithorhynchus”), but is a mammal.
  • Red blood cells in mammals lack a cell nucleus. In comparison, the red blood cells of other vertebrates have nuclei; the only known exceptions are salamanders of the Batrachoseps genus and fish of the Maurolicus genus.

Read more about this topic:  List Of Examples Of Convergent Evolution, In Animals

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