All other forms of phenotypic similarity that arise during the course of evolution are referred to collectively as homoplasy (similarity due to causes other than homology). Homoplastic characters may arise from several sources: convergence due to similar functional pressures and natural selection, parallel (independent) evolution to a common structure or function from organisms with similar genetic and developmental backgrounds, or convergent reversal to a common ancestral (plesiomorphic) condition. Some well-known examples of convergent evolution in the nervous system include: image-forming eyes of cephalopod mollusks (e.g., squids and octopods) and vertebrates (Packard, 1972), and the evolution of G-protein-coupled receptors as odorant receptors in many animal phyla (Eisthen, 2002). Examples of parallel evolution in the nervous system of vertebrates have been summarized in several recent reviews (Nishikawa, 2002; Zakon, 2002). These include: electric communication in mormyriform (African) and gymnotiform (South American) electric fishes (Albert and Crampton, 2005), prey capture among frogs (Nishikawa, 1999), sound localization among owls (Grothe et al., 2005), and thermorecep-tion in snakes (Hartline, 1988; Molenaar, 1992).
Reversals are among the most common forms of homoplasy, and are often the most difficult to detect even in the context of a resolved phylogenetic hypothesis of relationships (Cunningham, 1999). The reason for this is the phenotypes of some reversals may be quite literally identical, as in the case of convergent loss of structures (e.g., the derived loss of paired limbs in snakes and limbless lizards).
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