What a pretty tree!

If you’re bored and feel like exploring all of life, try the One Zoom explorer. It’s a graphical interface to a collection of data about phylogeny.

It’s interesting and useful at the top level, but as you dig down into the twigs and leaves, it starts to fall apart, lacking in detail. That’s what you’d expect if you’re trying to track about 1.5 million documented species (somewhere over 10 million species total). It does help communicate the diversity and complexity of life, though.


  1. John Harshman says

    I do wish they’d chosen a graphic approach that doesn’t imply that there are main branches and side branches.

  2. says

    I agree with John about the main-branch / side-branch impression. However it is fun and fascinating. They had the good sense to not put humans at the end of the main branch. Instead it is a large moth Asura atritermina found in Sumatra. (Perhaps they used number of descendant species to choose which fork got to be the main branch?) People may also get the mistaken impression that the shape of the tree follows some grand geometric principle. Geometric schemes like that for classification were popular in the early 1800s but Darwin killed off that notion.

  3. Trevor Sloughter says

    I love this, this is wonderful! I agree with Joe and John about the main/side branch issue, but it really is both beautiful, informative, and useful for education. Though a part of me still thinks the lack of horizontal gene transfer and other weird crossovers is a shame. The single tree of life scheme doesn’t really work as I understand it, because of stuff like that, but it works well enough and I can’t wait to share this with my colleagues after the holidays I know they’ll love it. Well, the biologists, the physicists may be less grateful.

  4. birgerjohansson says

    Since Zod loves beetles so much there are now literally millions of species of them, maybe one of those should have been at the end of the main branch. Or cockroaches?