Copyright

Analogous Structures: Definition & Examples

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: Interglaciation: Definition & Explanation on the Interglacial Period

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
 Replay
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:05 What are Analogous Structures?
  • 1:06 Examples of Analogous…
  • 2:50 Identifying Analogous…
  • 3:50 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Timeline
Autoplay
Autoplay
Speed Speed

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Sarah Friedl

Sarah has two Master's, one in Zoology and one in GIS, a Bachelor's in Biology, and has taught college level Physical Science and Biology.

Though some species may appear to be related, if you take a deeper look you'll be surprised at how different they really are. Analogous structures can provide information about how natural selection leads to similar adaptations in the same environment.

What are Analogous Structures?

Many species have similar traits because they are descendants of a single common ancestor. These species developed from a single source and are related to a certain degree despite their current differences. The traits they share are known as homologous structures. Homologous structures are similar in structure and function because they originated from the same ancestor long ago.

Species may also have similar traits even though they are not related to each other. This usually results because the species live in similar environments and fill similar ecological roles. The structures in this case are known as analogous structures.

The process that brings these traits forward is called convergent evolution. Convergent evolution is natural selection that favors the same type of structure in different ancestors. The similarity between convergent evolution-affected species is called homoplasy, which literally means 'from the same mold or form.'

Examples of Analogous Structures

There are many examples of analogous structures available for us to examine in nature. We can observe various flying animals such as bats, birds, insects, and even fish. However, even though these wing structures serve the same function for these different animals, the bone structures, wing coverings (such as feathers, scales, hair, etc.), shapes, and sizes are quite different.

analogous structure

Another example of an analogous trait is fins. Animals such as penguins and fish both have fin-like structures to help them navigate through their aquatic environments. However, because one is a bird and one is a fish, it is clear that the fin evolved in these very different species because it was the best functional feature for the environment they inhabit instead of from a common ancestor.

While analogous traits may be most easily seen in animals, all organisms can exhibit convergent evolution. Many species of plants, fungi, bacteria, and even molecules can have analogous traits based on their environmental demands and not their ancestral lineage. For example, sweet potatoes and potatoes have the same function of food storage. The difference is that sweet potatoes are an underground root and potatoes are an underground stem.

Analogous traits are not limited to visual body structures; behavioral traits can also be analogous. Bird songs are quite varied, not just between different species but also between different flocks. However, it has been found that some bird species that are quite unrelated can develop analogous song characteristics if held together in similar conditions for periods of time in a lab.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com

Become a Study.com member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about Study.com
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account
Support