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  1. Why emit light? The many functions of bioluminescence
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  2. Bioluminescence
    Flying through the air on a summer's evening or sparkling in the ocean you may see magical flashes of light that signal some of nature's most enchanting creatures, those that are bioluminescent.

  3. Vibrational communication in mammals
    Kangaroo rats drum their foot on the ground upon encountering a snake. Why? Read on for this and many other fascinating examples of vibrational communication in mammals…

  4. Vibrational communication in insects and spiders
    Some spiders have evolved a most remarkable method of capturing other spiders – they imitate the vibrations of insects caught in their victim’s web. And this is only one of numerous intriguing examples of vibrational communication in arthropods…

  5. Electrolocation and electrocommunication in weakly electric fish
    Fish have eyes, but they live in a much more complex sensory world, where even electricity plays a surprising - and convergent - role.

  6. Echolocation in bats
    How can bats navigate in total darkness amongst trees and branches, but still locate a tiny, fluttering insect with extraordinary acuity? All made possible through echolocation, an astonishing sensory mechanism…

  7. Foregut fermentation in mammals
    Foregut fermentation is best known from the ruminants, such as cattle, deer and giraffes, that regurgitate and rechew their food to aid microbial digestion. However, they are not the only mammals to have evolved this digestive strategy...

  8. Monochromacy in mammals
    Underwater environments are dominated by blue light. Ironically, whales and seals cannot see blue, because they have independently lost their short-wavelength opsins.

  9. Carnivorous plants
    All plants are harmless? Well, not quite - at least not when you're an insect...

  10. Agriculture in marine polychaete annelids
    Some polychaetes attach pieces of algae to their dwelling tube. Just for decoration? No, but for a much more substantial (and convergent) benefit...

  11. Agriculture in wood wasps
    The most famous hymenopteran farmers are, without doubt, the attine ants. Rightly so, but they are not the only ones...

  12. Agriculture in gall midges (Diptera)
    Flies, fungi, farming - sounds interesting? Read on if you want to learn about some rather different gall midges...

  13. Agriculture in beetles
    Think of weevils and most likely you'll think of spoiled food. But some weevils have turned to farming...

  14. Cichlids
    Cichlids are one of the cause celebré of evolution, and rightly so because these freshwater fish show a remarkable diversity and exemplify many key aspects of adaptive radiation. But why so successful? The answer lies in the versatility of the jaws (and yes, they are convergent).

  15. Vibrational communication in animals
    What on earth could an elephant or treehoppers have in common with a seismometer?

  16. Pressure sensitivity and the tactile sense (excluding the lateral line)
    The star-nosed mole is famous for, well, its nose, but do you have any idea what these peculiar 'tentacles' are for? The answer is rather touching and, of course, convergent...

  17. Secondary xylem (wood) in vascular plants
    Evolution of wood in plants as distantly related as lignophytes, Calamites and Lepidodendron is an elegant example of convergent evolution. Plants responded in a similar way to a need for better structural support as they diversified and increased in size.

  18. Reversion from xylem vessels to tracheids
    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.

  19. Foam nests in animals
    Nests crop up everywhere, but one made out of foam? Might not sound like a great idea, but it is. And no surprise, it has evolved several times...

  20. Lateral line system in fish and other animals
    Some cavefish are completely blind, so how do they manage to navigate through their environment with astonishing ease?

  21. Dicyemids and chromidinids: enigmatic endoparasites
    Dicyemids and chromidinids are tiny, worm-like or 'vermiform' creatures that typically live inside the kidneys ('renal organs') of cephalopod molluscs such as octopus, squid and cuttlefish.

  22. Mimicry in fungi
    Insects pollinating flowers are a familiar sight. But what happens when the "flower" is actually a fungus? Still "pollination", but now it is fungal spores. Read on to learn more about the fungi that mimic flowers...

  23. Mushrooms and their relatives (Basidiomycota)
    Mushrooms are not only tasty, but also provide numerous examples of evolutionary convergence...

  24. Suction feeding in fish, amphibians, reptiles and aquatic mammals
    Probably everyone is familiar with the walrus, but did you know that it generates a vacuum in its mouth to suck clams out of their shells? And this is just one example of suction feeding, the feeding mode typically used by bony fish…

  25. Tetrodotoxin
    Not many foods served in a restaurant can kill you, but pufferfish is the exception. Tetrodotoxin, the toxin responsible for such culinary fatalities, reveals a fascinating story of convergent evolution...

  26. Teeth in aquatic reptiles
    Aquatic reptiles tend to display one of three dentition types, well adapted to either seize and slice large vertebrate prey, pierce and gouge slippery fish, or entrap small prey such as crustaceans.

  27. Venom and venom fangs in snakes, lizards and synapsids
    Although the evolution of snake fangs itself provides us with a window on convergence, the presence of fang-like teeth in lizards, therapsids and mammals provides an even broader and more remarkable perspective.

  28. Desert plants with succulent stems
    Fleshy, succulent stems have evolved in several distantly related desert plant families, including cacti, certain species of Euphorbia and two genera of the family Asclepiadaceae, Hoodia and Stapelia.

  29. Desert plants with succulent leaves
    Perhaps the most striking case of convergence among leaf succulents occurs between Agave and its relatives Yucca and Hesperaloe in the Americas and Aloe and its relatives (e.g. Haworthia and Gasteria) in Africa.

  30. Succulent desert plants
    Classic examples of convergence in desert plants include the so-called 'stem succulent' cacti in the Americas and cactus-like Euphorbia species in Africa and South Asia, and also the striking similarity between 'leaf succulent' Agave and Yucca of the Americas and Aloe and its close relatives in Africa.

  31. Crabs: insights into convergence
    You might think of crabs mainly as food, but this group is also highly instructive in terms of convergence…

  32. Ascomycete fungi: insights into convergence
    Today ascomycetes are an extremely important group of fungi, and they take their name from the reproductive structures known as ascii.

  33. Bats: Insights into convergence
    Bats show a fascinating array of convergences, from echolocation to flight to nectar feeding. Vampire bats can even detect infrared radiation, while others might be able to see into the ultraviolet end of the spectrum.

  34. Echolocation in toothed whales and ground-dwelling mammals
    Given the extraordinary powers of echolocation in bats, it is not surprising that this group has received the most attention. However, they are not the only mammals to have evolved echolocation. Who invented sonar millions of years before the Navy?

  35. Magnetotactic bacteria
    Magnetotactic bacteria provide some excellent examples of convergent evolution.  In particular the ability to synthesize iron compounds has evolved at least twice, respectively employing iron oxide (magnetite) and iron sulphide.

  36. Extremophiles: Archaea and Bacteria
    Surely, no organism can survive in boiling water or brines nine times the salinity of seawater? Wrong - some archaea and bacteria have independently evolved adaptations to such extreme environments...

  37. Gliding lizards, frogs and ants
    Tree-dwelling (‘arboreal’) ants capable of controlled gliding do so when dislodged or threatened by predation. Gliding species include members of three disparate families: Myrmicinae, Pseudomyrmecinae and Formicinae.

  38. Gliding reptiles
    In the reptiles, different forms of skin membrane (called ‘patagia’) and in some extinct species, primitive feathers, have evolved convergently as adaptations for gliding.

  39. Sand-dwelling (psammophilous) lizard ecomorphs
    Desert sand dunes represent an extreme environmental setting in which selective forces have apparently generated dune ‘ecomorphs’ in six lizard families. – Lamb et al. (2003) Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, vol. 73, p. 253

  40. Ecological adaptations in Moloch and Phrynosoma lizards
    Lizards of the genera Phrynosoma and Moloch have been considered a classic example of convergent evolution J. J. Meyers & A. Herrel (2005) The Journal of Experimental Biology, vol. 208, p. 114

  41. Drinking adaptations in desert lizards
    Both Moloch horridus and [...] Phrynosoma cornutum have the remarkable ability to transport water over their skin’s surface to the mouth where drinking occurs. Sherbrooke et al. (2007) Zoomorphology, vol. 126, p. 89

  42. Parthenogenesis in Australian lizards and insects
    “Evidence on the origin and spread of the two best-studied cases of parthenogenesis from the Australian arid zone, the grasshopper Warramaba virgo and the gecko Heteronotia binoei, suggests that they evolved in parallel.” – Kearney et al. (2006) Molecular Ecology vol. 15, p.1743

  43. Anolis lizard ecomorphs
    “A classic example of convergent evolution is the set of Anolis lizard ecomorphs of the Greater Antilles.” – Langerhans, Knouft & Losos (2006) Evolution, vol. 6, p.362

  44. Viviparity in lizards, snakes and mammals
    “In over 100 lineages of […] squamates, the oviduct has been recruited for viviparous gestation of the embryos, representing a degree of evolutionary convergence that is unparalleled in vertebrate history.” D. G. Blackburn (1998) Journal of Experimental Zoology, vol.282, p.560

  45. Olfaction: insights into convergence
    Although olfaction is very widespread, there is abundant evidence for repeated convergence of key features, strongly suggesting that there really is an optimal solution to detecting smells.

  46. Infrared detection in insects
    Whilst infrared detection is probably best known in the snakes (where it has evolved twice), in point of fact in terms of convergence the insects provide by far the most striking example.

  47. Infrared detection in snakes
    Warm-blooded rodents watch out! There are heat-sensing predators on the prowl...

  48. Loss of olfactory capacity in primates and cetaceans
    It is widely thought that reduced olfactory capacity in apes is linked to the development of acute vision, especially trichromacy.

  49. Telephoto eyes in animals
    Pursued by the paparazzi? Watch out for those animals equipped with telephoto lenses...

  50. Silk production and use in arthropods
    Remarkably, fossil silk is known, especially from amber of Cretaceous age. Material includes both silk with trapped insects, possibly from an orb-web, and strands with the characteristic viscid droplets that are the key in trapping prey.

  51. Biological uses of silk: from webs to ballooning
    What material is so versatile that it can be used for capturing prey, building nests, communication and even cleaning? The answer: that most remarkable of biomaterials - silk.

  52. Enzymes: convergence on active sites and reaction types
    Enzymes make the world go round, each an evolutionary marvel - and convergent.

  53. Birds: insights into convergence
    Intriguing ecological and morphological parallels can be found among the Neoaves. Many of these forms were initially believed to be each other's closest relatives, but are now widely recognised as classic examples of convergence. Think how similar swifts and swallows are, but they are only distantly related.

  54. Baculum (penile bone) in mammals
    Ouch!! Gentlemen, fancy a bone in your penis? Seems a bit risky, given it could fracture during copulation. Even our near ancestors had such a bone. It has probably evolved several times, but what is its function?

  55. Tool use in birds
    What animals can drop stones into a water-filled tube to bring floating food within reach or bend wire to form a hook? Obviously chimpanzees? No, New Caledonian crows have evolved sophisticated tool use too.

  56. Sabre-toothed cats and marsupials
    Marsupials with giant fangs? Yes, not all of the extinct sabre-toothed cats were actually cats…

  57. Sleep in animals
    Suffering from insomnia? Fruit flies do as well...

  58. Agriculture: from ants to dugongs
    Human farmers tending their fields are a familiar sight. But don't forget about those fungus-farming termites or the fish with a garden of algae…

  59. Agriculture in ants: leaf-cutters (attines) and non-attines
    In some species, special squads leave the nest early each day, ascend the tree-trunks and then spend hours cutting out pieces of leaf that are dropped to other units on the ground.

  60. Ecology and cosmetics in vultures
    Vultures are not only charistmatic birds in the popular imagination, but are strikingly convergent, especially regarding feeding types...

  61. Haemocyanin in arthropods and molluscs
    The degree of similarity between the active sites in arthropod and molluscan haemocyanin has been called “remarkable” and “startling”, but actually suggests that wherever in the universe life employs copper for aerobic respiration it will call upon haemocyanin.

  62. Transparent tissues: eyes, bodies and reflective surfaces
    Read on if you want to know about the numerous animal equivalents to the invisible man...

  63. Simple tool use in owls and cephalopods
    Burrowing owls place pieces of collected dung. These attract insects such as beetles that are then eaten by the owls.

  64. Electroreception in fish, amphibians and monotremes
    From an evolutionary point of view, electroreception is particularly intriguing as a sense modality that has been repeatedly lost and reinvented again.

  65. Octopus arm function
    If you want to see a truly remarkable example of convergence, then present an octopus with a piece of food and have a high-speed camera ready…

  66. Camera eyes of cephalopods
    The remarkable similarity between the camera eyes of cephalopods and vertebrates is one of the best-known examples of evolutionary convergence.

  67. Octopus and other cephalopods: convergence with vertebrates
    What could be more different from us than the alien-like octopus? Hold on. Look it in the eye and think again.