Problem : On his voyage with the Beagle, Charles Darwin carefully studied several species of finches. He found that many had come from a single species, but they had adapted to their environment by choosing different food sources and developing radically different beak designs to match their choice of food. What pattern of evolution did the finches show?

The finches showed divergent evolution. As time passed, the different species adapted to their own lifestyles and became more and more different from the other closely related species.

Problem : Many species of owls hunt only at night. These winged predators have evolved extremely sensitive hearing to help track insects and other prey. Another night hunting winged predator, the bat also has extremely sensitive hearing to track prey in the dark. What pattern of evolution does this show?

This is an example of convergent evolution. Owls (birds) and bats (mammals) are not closely related, but both have evolved similar traits (flight and good hearing) to help them fill the same role as night hunters.

Problem : Imagine two types of ancient forest animals: a goat-like grazing animal and a small ground-dwelling rodent that lives on insect prey. At the same time, these two animals leave the forest and begin living in grassy plains. The rodent evolves large powerful claws for digging burrows to hide in, while the grazer develops long legs for running from predators. What type of evolution does this show?

This is an example of parallel evolution. The two animals were fairly dissimilar to begin with. They filled different roles in the forest environment. When they moved to the plains, both animals evolved to adapt to the new environment, but they did not become any more or less similar to each other.

Problem : What difficulty does convergent evolution pose for evolutionary biologists?

The major difficulty involved with convergent evolution is the formation of analogous structures. These structures may appear similar and perform similar functions, making it seem that two species are closely related. However, analogous structures develop from different ancestral structures and do not indicate close relationships.