Boas and pythons are convergent evolution in motion

Convergent evolution is a biological process where different species adapt to the same environment and as a result, evolve similar traits. A new study reveals that process in action.

Researchers from the Australian National University (ANU) found that by living in the same habitat, pythons and boas evolved independently to look similar.

The study was published in Ecology Letters on June 6.

The researchers focused on the head shape of nearly 1,100 specimens in museum collections in Australia and America, and showed that pythons and boas displayed widespread convergence when they occupied equivalent ecological niches, that is, aquatic pythons looked like aquatic boas, burrowing pythons looked like borrowing boas, and tree-dwelling pythons looked like tree-dwelling boas.

Additionally, phenotypic evolution strongly matched the history of ecological diversification.

This happened at least five times in different habitats.

"The finding of such a strong case of convergent evolution demonstrates the power of natural selection and adaptation in living organisms," said Damien Esquerre, one of the study authors.

"If we see that different groups evolve the same things independently when they face the same challenges, we can find predictability in evolution,” said Esquerre.

Photo credit: © iStock/dangdumrong

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