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The Similarity Trap

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 English   |   Archeology / Paleontology   |   Science
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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.

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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.
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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
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Torgos_tracheliotos_-Masai_Mara_National_Reserve,_Kenya-8.jpg

Turkey vulture (New World) - Flickr User minicooper93402
https://www.flickr.com/photos/minicooper93402/5440526260

Crested Porcupine (Old World) - Flickr user 57777529@N02
https://www.flickr.com/photos/57777529@N02/5398915634

North American Porcupine (New World) - iStock.com/GlobalP
https://www.istockphoto.com/photo/north-american-porcupine-or-canadian-porcupine-or-common-porcupine-walking-gm515605852-88578399

Chinchilla lanigera - Nicolas Guérin
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Chinchilla_lanigera_(Wroclaw_zoo)-2.JPG

Naked Mole Rat - Roman Klementschitz
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Nacktmull.jpg

Ganges river dolphin - Zahangir Alom, NOAA (Public Domain)
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Platanista_gangetica_noaa.jpg

Atlantic Spotted Dolphin - Flickr user 53344659@N05
https://www.flickr.com/photos/53344659@N05/4978423771/

Orcinus orcas - Robert Pittman, NOAA (Public Domain)
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Killerwhales_jumping.jpg

Euphorbia obesa - Frank Vincentz
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:E_obesa_symmetrica_ies.jpg

Astrophytum asterias - David Midgley
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Astrophytum_asterias1.jpg

Sweet William Dwarf - Nicholas M. Bashour
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Spring_Flowers.JPG
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References:

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/

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