Evolution over time can follow several different patterns. Factors such as environment and predation pressures can have different effects on the ways in which species exposed to them evolve. shows the three main types of evolution: divergent, convergent, and parallel evolution.
When people hear the word "evolution," they most commonly think of divergent evolution, the evolutionary pattern in which two species gradually become increasingly different. This type of evolution often occurs when closely related species diversify to new habitats. On a large scale, divergent evolution is responsible for the creation of the current diversity of life on earth from the first living cells. On a smaller scale, it is responsible for the evolution of humans and apes from a common primate ancestor.
Convergent evolution causes difficulties in fields of study such as comparative anatomy. Convergent evolution takes place when species of different ancestry begin to share analogous traits because of a shared environment or other selection pressure. For example, whales and fish have some similar characteristics since both had to evolve methods of moving through the same medium: water.
Parallel evolution occurs when two species evolve independently of each other, maintaining the same level of similarity. Parallel evolution usually occurs between unrelated species that do not occupy the same or similar niches in a given habitat.