This website aims to tell you nearly everything you need (and may ever want) to know about convergent evolution. It allows you to explore the way that similar adaptive solutions have repeatedly evolved from unrelated starting points on the tree of life, as though following a metaphorical ‘map’.

We have identified hundreds of examples of convergence, so if you want to learn about convergence in sex (e.g. love-darts), eyes (e.g. camera-eyes in jellyfish), agriculture (e.g. in ants) or gliding (e.g. in lizards and mammals) then this is your best port of call.

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A note to all book-lovers out there: many of the examples of convergence mentioned in the Map of Life can be found in Simon Conway Morris’s latest book, The Runes of Evolution.

Any of the information presented in the Map of Life may be freely reproduced, as long as it is acknowledged fully. Citation details can be found at the bottom of each Topic page.

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In three plant taxa that evolved in environments with frequent freeze-thaw cycles (Winteraceae, Trochodendraceae and cold desert Ephedra), vessel evolution has been reversed independently in favour of a return to a tracheid-based vascular system.

Spotlight on Research:

“Phylogenetic analysis reveals a scattered distribution of autumn colours”

Archetti 2009, Annals of Botany volume 103, pages 703-713

Autumn leaves do not turn red and gold due to simple leaf degradation but rather colourful pigments are actively produced. An analysis of 2368 tree species shows that yellow leaves evolved independently at least 25 times and red at least 28 times during evolution. Various hypotheses have been proposed to explain the clear adaptive value of autumn leaf colouration (e.g. co-evolution with aphids, protection of nutrients from radiation) but the explanations are yet to be tested fully.