AsianScientist (Jun. 21, 2016) – An Australian study into pythons and boas has found that the two groups of snakes evolved independently to share similar traits. The research has been published in Ecology Letters.
Pythons and boas are two families that include the largest snakes in the world, like the reticulated python and the anaconda boa, which have been known to grow close to eight meters in length.
The Australian National University study focused on the head shape of close to 2,000 specimens in museum collections in Australia and America. Their findings showed that by living in the same habitat, pythons and boas evolved independently to look similar. This happened at least five times in different habitats: aquatic pythons look like aquatic boas, burrowing pythons look like borrowing boas, and tree-dwelling pythons look like tree-dwelling boas.
“The finding of such a strong case of convergent evolution demonstrates the power of natural selection and adaptation in living organisms,” said Mr. Damien Esquerré, a PhD student from the ANU Research School of Biology and the lead author of the study.
“If we see that different groups evolve the same things independently when they face the same challenges, we can find predictability in evolution.”
Other famous examples of convergent evolution are sharks and dolphins, which are not related but have evolved similar body plans. The same can be said for the extinct Tasmanian Tiger, a marsupial mammal, and the wolf, a placental mammal.
Although they look the similar and both constrict their prey, the pythons and boas last shared a common ancestor 70 million years ago in the age of the dinosaurs.
The article can be found at: Esquerré & Keogh (2016) Parallel Selective Pressures Drive Convergent Diversification of Phenotypes in Pythons and Boas.
Source: Australian National University; Photo: Jonathan Kriz/Flickr/CC.
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