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Divergent Evolution

Teacher/Instructor Patrick Roisen
Patrick Roisen

M.Ed., Stanford University
Winner of multiple teaching awards

Patrick has been teaching AP Biology for 14 years and is the winner of multiple teaching awards.

Divergent evolution occurs when related species develop unique traits due to different environments or selective pressures. A classic example of divergent evolution is the Galapagos finch which Darwin discovered that in different environments, the finches' beaks adapted differently. The individual Galapagos finches looked so different from one another that he was surprised when he found that they were all related.

One of the common trends in evolution is something called divergent evolution and that's when two related species diverge and wind up looking very different. They'll have different traits even though they maybe pretty closely related. This happens because the two new species or the two related species are under the influence of different environments or under the influence of different natural selective pressures. What would be a good example of this would might be something like bats and humans. Now bats and us humans are both mammals. We share a lot of common characteristics but we also share what are called homologous structures. Our upper arm and a bat's upper limb share same bones etcetera even though they're used for different traits, different purposes.

We take a look here at a bat skeleton. you can actually see some of the common features that we share with them. We've got a rib cage, they've got a rib cage. Number of bones in the arm are the same and their wing is merely just a grossly elongated version of our fingers, our phallanges, bones here. And so that is an example of homologous structure demonstrating how we and bats illustrate divergent evolution.