Convergent Evolution vs. Divergent Evolution

Our earth has numerous life, which can be in every form, from microorganisms to a big like a whale. It is a traditional belief that all types of life present on the earth to date have evolved from a single living cell, which further gave rise to other forms of life. This process is called evolution. In biology, evolution is the constant change in the characteristics of an organism over several generations that relies on the process of natural selection. The first time, the theory of evolution was formulated by Darwin in 1859.  Evolution is further divided into two types; microevolution and macroevolution. Microevolution is further had two types of convergent evolution and divergent evolution.

In convergent evolution, two or more species have developed similar characteristics due to adaptation to a specific environment. But such species do not belong to the same ancestors. On the contrary, divergent evolution is a phenomenon in which two species have common ancestors but develop different characteristics due to variations in the environment in which they adapt slowly and give rise to new species.

Comparison Table

Basis for ComparisonConvergent EvolutionDivergent Evolution
DefinitionConvergent evolution can be defined as the process in which two or more species belonging to different ancestors develop the same structures independently.Divergent evolution can be defined as the process of two or more species diverging from a common ancestor.
EtymologyConvergent means emergingDiverge means separated
AppearanceExternal structure different from ancestors but internally similar to ancestorsDifferent from ancestor both internally or externally
CausesEnvironmental conditions or habitatMigration or environmental conditions
Type of StructureAnalogous structureHomologous structure
Way of livingLive with the same habitsLive differently
ExampleBirds and bats having wingsDogs and wolf

What is Convergent Evolution?

In convergent evolution, two similar though independent species evolve in the same direction, individually acquiring similar characteristics.  The word “convergent” means “merging.” Biologically, it has the same meaning; two or more organisms that have developed different features from their ancestors due to adaptation to the specific environmental conditions in which they are living. The developed structures of convergent species are called analogous structures. Analogous means structure with similar functions but differ in shape and origin. Convergent evolution results due to changes in the environmental conditions or sudden changes in the place where the species are living.

Sharks and dolphins are examples of convergent evolution species. Dolphin is the mammal, whereas shark is the fish. But both are water-living and have a streamlined bodies. Another example of this evolution is the wings of insects, birds and bats. These organisms do not come from the same ancestral family but have common characteristics as wings are used for flying.

Convergent evolution also occurs in plants. An excellent example of this is the evolution of edible fruits such as apples. Such fruits were not edible in the past. Later they show some changes in their tissues, which make them palatable.

What is Divergent Evolution?

Divergent evolution is the opposite of convergent evolution in which related species evolve different characteristics and gradually result in new species. The word “diverge” means “separated.” When any same ancestral species get diverged into another new form of species, this is called divergent evolution. Divergent evolution gives rise to new species that may be similar in function but morphologically different from their ancestors. Divergent species have a homologous structure despite appearing identical to ancestors.  Homologous structure means the structures appear similar but have different functions. Divergent evolution results due to any environmental changes or migration.

Wooly mammoths and elephants are divergent organisms. Both of them originated from a similar ancestor, but the common ancestor diverged, leading to two new species. Darwin finches are another diverged organism. They are birds and also known as Galapagos finches. These are known for their diverged beak resulted in 80 new species.

Vestigial organs also developed as a result of divergent evolution.  These organs usually do not have any use for the organisms. Vestigial organs are the remnants of structures that are used to serve essential functions in the organism’s ancestors.

Key Differences between Convergent and Divergent Evolution

  1. Convergent means emerged, whereas divergent means separated.
  2. Organisms of convergent evolution have a different external structure, whereas organisms of divergent evolution have both external and internal similar structures.
  3. Species of convergent evolution have similar traits, whereas species of divergent evolution have different morphological characteristics.
  4. Convergent evolution gives rise to analogous structures in species, whereas divergent evolution gives rise to homologous structures in the species.
  5. Species of the convergent evolution live in the same habitat, whereas species of the divergent evolution live in different habitats.
  6. Convergent evolution results because of environmental conditions, whereas divergent evolution results because of migration or ecological circumstances.
  7. Examples of convergent evolution are wings of bats, birds, insects, streamlined bodies of sharks, and dolphins, whereas examples of divergent evolution are Darwin finches (a type of bird).

Key similarities

  1. Both types of evolutions play a vital role in generating a new kind of species.


In conclusion, both convergent and divergent evolutions play an important role in developing new kinds of species that can cope up with the variation in the environment and show adaptation in the new environment. But convergent and divergent evolution are two entirely different processes.

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