Derived characteristics are traits shared by the members of a group of organisms with many similarities, known as a clade. These characteristics, however, are not shared by the ancestors of clade members. This indicates that derived characteristics evolve as a result of the clade's evolution.
Shared derived characteristics are essential to phylogenetic ordering. This scientific technique of grouping organisms by similarities is the basis of phylogeny, the evolutionary history of life. Evolutionary relationships between species are illustrated through phylogenic trees. Species are indicated by letters, from which different species, or letters, branch out to indicate the evolution of new species.