Convergence




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I do this research in east Africa, and every now and then I’ve gone to […] Mount Kenya which is […] an equatorial glacial mountain. If you go up about fifteen-thousand feet almost everything is dead from the cold, and there’s basically only about four or five different types of plant up there. Only a small number [of plants] survive in that environment, and each one of them is very bizarre and distinctive looking. In some way or other, that’s what it takes to survive up there.

I have this friend who does research up in the Andes […], a glacial equatorial mountain on the other side of the globe. One day I’m sitting around and looking at some of his pictures [from this mountain] and suddenly I say “that’s the exact same plant [that I found in Mount Kenya]! How can that plant be over there?”

They are completely unrelated plants - taxonomically of no connection whatsoever - but what they have done is converge onto the same shape. In some mysterious way, if you’re going to be a plant growing on the equator at about fifteen-thousand feet there’s only about four or five different ways of appearing [..] and of surviving an environment like that. There is massive convergence.

[Robert Sapolsky]
'22. Emergence and Complexity'


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