The Evolution of Convergence: From Morphological Similarities to Predicting Molecular Adaptations

Fields, Jesse [Browse]
Senior thesis


Andolfatto, Peter [Browse]
Princeton University. Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology [Browse]
Class year
Restrictions note
Walk-in Access. This thesis can only be viewed on computer terminals at the Mudd Manuscript Library.
Summary note
Convergent evolution is the process by which species from diverse lineages adopt incredibly similar behavioral or structural adaptations in order to deal with similar survival pressures. Evolution describes how through a process of constant mutation and differential reproductive success, species adapt to fill an available niche and survive in their environment. When the evolutionary pressures that separate species encounter are nearly identical it is not uncommon for the species to undergo equitable if not identical adaptations to cope with these pressures. Over the centuries scientists have studied this apparent convergence in morphological features, but in recent decades it has become possible to examine these incidences of phenotypic convergence on a molecular level. By examining the genotypic adaptations that code for these morphological adaptations it is possible to determine on what scale convergence is active. Given the many different molecular methods to reach the same resulting phenotype, any similarities on this level would suggest differential success of varying mutations and would open up a new world of possibilities in the study of evolution. By examining the dozens of known cases of observed convergence, it is possible we could discover some of the deepest molecular similarities between species. If we can begin to understand the common paths of molecular adaptation used by species the world over in reaction to certain encompassing pressures it could be possible to actually predict future adaptations in a constantly changing world and thus to maximize our efforts to support this adaptation.

Supplementary Information