Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Homoplasy: A good thread to pull to understand the evolutionary ball of yarn

Date:
February 25, 2011
Source:
National Science Foundation
Summary:
With the genetics of so many organisms that have different traits yet to study, and with the techniques for gathering full sets of genetic information from organisms rapidly evolving, the "forest" of evolution can be easily lost to the "trees" of each individual case and detail.

Homoplasy is a fascinating and unusual occurrence in evolution. It is the independent acquisition of the same trait in unrelated lineages. To understand whether multiple organisms share the same trait because of homoplasy, their places in the evolutionary tree of life must be defined. Parallelism/convergence homoplasy occurs when the same trait is present in two lineages that lack a recent common ancestor. Reversal homoplasy occurs when a trait is present in an ancestor but not its immediate descendants; but appears later in a subsequent descendant.
Credit: Zina Deretsky

With the genetics of so many organisms that have different traits yet to study, and with the techniques for gathering full sets of genetic information from organisms rapidly evolving, the "forest" of evolution can be easily lost to the "trees" of each individual case and detail.

Related Articles


A review paper recently published in Science by David Wake, Marvalee Wake and Chelsea Specht, all currently National Science Foundation grantees, suggests that studying examples of homoplasy can help scientists analyze the overwhelming deluge of genetic data and information that is currently being generated.

For example, studying situations where a derived trait surfaces in two lineages that lack a recent common ancestor, or situations where an ancestral trait was lost but then reappeared many generations later, may help scientists identify the processes and mechanisms of evolution.

The authors provide many fascinating examples of homoplasy, including different species of salamanders that independently, through evolution, increased their body-length by increasing the lengths of individual vertebrae. By contrast, most species grow longer by adding vertebrae through evolution.

The authors also explain how petals in flowers have evolved on six separate occasions in different plants. A particularly striking example of homoplasy cited by the authors is the evolution of eyes, which evolved many times in different groups of organisms--from invertebrates to mammals--all of which share an identical genetic code for their eyes.

These kinds of examples of genetic and developmental biology help scientists elucidate relationships between organisms, as well as develop a fuller picture of their evolutionary history.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by National Science Foundation. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. D. B. Wake, M. H. Wake, C. D. Specht. Homoplasy: From Detecting Pattern to Determining Process and Mechanism of Evolution. Science, 2011; 331 (6020): 1032 DOI: 10.1126/science.1188545

Cite This Page:

National Science Foundation. "Homoplasy: A good thread to pull to understand the evolutionary ball of yarn." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 25 February 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110224161512.htm>.
National Science Foundation. (2011, February 25). Homoplasy: A good thread to pull to understand the evolutionary ball of yarn. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 6, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110224161512.htm
National Science Foundation. "Homoplasy: A good thread to pull to understand the evolutionary ball of yarn." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110224161512.htm (accessed March 6, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Friday, March 6, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Giant Panda Goes Walkabout in Southwest China

Giant Panda Goes Walkabout in Southwest China

AFP (Mar. 6, 2015) — A giant panda goes walkabout alone at night in southwest China. Duration: 00:37 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Nesting Bald Eagle Covered in Snow Up to Its Neck

Nesting Bald Eagle Covered in Snow Up to Its Neck

Buzz60 (Mar. 6, 2015) — The Pennsylvania State Game Commission captured amazing shots of a nesting bald eagle who stayed on its nest during a snowstorm, even when the snow piled all the way up to its neck. Jen Markham (@jenmarkham) has the story. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
'Extinct' Bird Isn't Extinct At All, Scientists Find

'Extinct' Bird Isn't Extinct At All, Scientists Find

Buzz60 (Mar. 6, 2015) — Scientists rediscover a bird thought to be extinct, so we may be able to cross it off the "Gone For Good" list. Sean Dowling (@seandowlingtv) has more details. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Lack of Snow Pushes Alaska Sled Dog Race North

Lack of Snow Pushes Alaska Sled Dog Race North

AP (Mar. 6, 2015) — A shortage of snow has forced Alaska&apos;s Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race to move 300 miles north to Fairbanks. The ceremonial start through downtown Anchorage will take place this weekend, using snow stockpiled earlier this winter. (March 6) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins