By George McGhee

Charles Darwin famously concluded at the foundation of Species with a imaginative and prescient of "endless varieties most pretty" consistently evolving. greater than one hundred fifty years later many evolutionary biologists see now not unending kinds however the comparable, or very related, varieties evolving many times in lots of self reliant species lineages. A porpoise's fishlike fins, for instance, usually are not inherited from fish ancestors yet are independently derived convergent features. during this publication, George McGhee describes the ubiquity of the phenomenon of convergent evolution and connects it on to the notion of evolutionary constraint--the concept that the variety of evolutionary pathways to be had to existence aren't never-ending, yet fairly constrained. Convergent evolution happens on all degrees, from tiny natural molecules to whole ecosystems of species. McGhee demonstrates its ubiquity in animals, either herbivore and carnivore; in crops; in ecosystems; in molecules, together with DNA, proteins, and enzymes; or even in minds, describing problem-solving habit and team habit because the items of convergence. for every species instance, he offers an abbreviated record of the key nodes in its phylogenetic type, permitting the reader to work out the evolutionary courting of a bunch of species that experience independently developed a comparable trait by way of convergent evolution. McGhee analyzes the function of useful and developmental constraints in generating convergent evolution, and considers the clinical and philosophical implications of convergent evolution for the predictability of the evolutionary approach.

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Extra info for Convergent Evolution: Limited Forms Most Beautiful (Vienna Series in Theoretical Biology)

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The possession of the tympanic-membrane system of hearing, or sound detection, in land animals is a trait that can be traced back to the early tetrapods in the Late Devonian and Carboniferous (more on the convergent evolution of this trait later in the chapter).

This latter group, the cephalaspid osteostracans, is particularly interesting. These primitive jawless fishes possessed three sensory fields on their bony head shields, two lateral and one on the top of the head. Thick bundles of nerves led from these sensory fields back to the brain, but appear to have led to the auditory region of the brain (Stensiö 1963) Convergent Animals 39 rather than to the visual region. These ancient fishes therefore may have evolved the capability to “hear” the static of an electric field, rather than “seeing” the electric field.

In these animals, the horizontalslit-pupil system is particularly good at detecting motion in a vertical plane. Because many of their prey species are flying insects, which move in three dimensions off the surface of the Earth, the horizontal-slit pupils of toads and frogs give these predators an advantage in spotting flying prey. Many also are diurnal predators, hunting during the daylight hours, as opposed to nocturnal or crepuscular predators. Otherwise, the horizontal-slit pupil is rare in predators.

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