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As we try to figure out the evolutionary trees for languages and species, we sometimes get led astray by similar but unrelated words and traits.

Thanks to our Patreon patrons https://www.patreon.com/MinuteEarth and our YouTube sponsors.


To learn more, start your googling with these keywords:
Cladistics: A method of recreating evolutionary trees based on evidence about relationships.
Etymology: The study of the origin of words and how they have changed throughout history.
Convergent Evolution: A process whereby different species evolve similar traits in order to adapt to similar environments.
Polyphyly: A group containing members with multiple ancestral sources.
Homoplasy: A trait shared by a group of species that is not shared in their common ancestor.
False Cognates: Pairs of words with similar sounds and meanings but unrelated etymologies.

If you liked this week’s video, you might also like:
A photographer who has taken amazing photos of unrelated people who look alike: http://mentalfloss.com/article/53774/photos-unrelated-people-who-look-exactly-alike

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Credits (and Twitter handles):
Script Writer: David Goldenberg (@dgoldenberg)
Script Editor: Emily Elert (@eelert)
Video Illustrator: Jessika Raisor
Video Director: David Goldenberg, Emily Elert
Video Narrator: Emily Elert
With Contributions From: Henry Reich, Alex Reich, Kate Yoshida, Ever Salazar, Peter Reich
Music by: Nathaniel Schroeder: http://www.soundcloud.com/drschroeder

Image Credits:

Lappet-faced Vulture (Old World) - Steve Garvie

Turkey vulture (New World) - Flickr User minicooper93402

Crested Porcupine (Old World) - Flickr user 57777529@N02

North American Porcupine (New World) - iStock.com/GlobalP

Chinchilla lanigera - Nicolas Guérin

Naked Mole Rat - Roman Klementschitz

Ganges river dolphin - Zahangir Alom, NOAA (Public Domain)

Atlantic Spotted Dolphin - Flickr user 53344659@N05

Orcinus orcas - Robert Pittman, NOAA (Public Domain)

Euphorbia obesa - Frank Vincentz

Astrophytum asterias - David Midgley

Sweet William Dwarf - Nicholas M. Bashour


Atkinson, Q. and Gray, R. (2005). Darimont, C., Fox, C., Bryan, H., and Reimchen, C. (2015). Curious Parallels and Curious Connections — Phylogenetic Thinking in Biology and Historical Linguistics. Systematic Biology. 54:5 (513-526). Retrieved from: https://academic.oup.com/sysbio/article/54/4/513/2842862

Atkinson, Quentin. (2018). Personal Communication. Department of Evolution and Human Behavior at the University of Auckland.

Bennu, D. (2004). The Evolution of Birds: An Overview of the Avian Tree of Life. Lab Animal. 33 (42-28)). Retrieved from: https://www.nature.com/articles/laban0504-42

De La Fuente, J.(2010). Urban legends: Turkish kayık ‘boat’ and “Eskimo” qayaq ‘kayak’. Studia Linguistica. 127 (7-24). Retrieved from: http://www.ejournals.eu/Studia-Linguistica/2010/2010/art/180/

Direct download: The_Similarity_Trap.mp4
Category:general -- posted at: 8:50am EDT