Tree of Life Online now connects 2.2 million living species
British researchers have completed their work on OneZoom, an interactive tree of life that lets you explore the evolving links between more than two million species.
All connected: The Tree of Life is a way to visualize how all species on Earth are evolutionarily related – each species is represented by a single leaf, and the placement of a leaf on the tree tells you how great it is. closely related to other species.
Because humans share a recent common ancestor with chimpanzees, for example, their leaf is right next to ours on the same branch, but the leaf for E. coli – a very distant relative – is on the other side of the tree of life.
“Our tool can help represent all species on Earth and allow visitors to connect with their plight. “
The idea: Over a decade ago, James Rosindell, a biodiversity researcher at Imperial College London, and Yan Wong, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Oxford, began work on UnZoom, an interactive tree of life.
Their hope was that the site would become “the Google Earth of biology,” and with 2.2 million leaves, it is now the most complete Single Sight Tree of Life ever created.
Online inspiration: Instead of just placing leaves on the tree, the researchers took it a step further, color coding each leaf to symbolize how close a species is to extinction: green (no threat), red (threatened), black (recently extinct) and gray (unknown threat of extinction).
Their hope was that by exploring the Tree of Life, people could get a better idea of how humans fit into the larger scheme of things on Earth and perhaps be inspired to preserve our biodiversity. planet.
“Two million species may seem like too large a number to visualize, and no museum or zoo can contain them all!” Rosindell said. “But our tool can help represent all species on Earth and allow visitors to connect with their plight.”
Your name here: The researchers also built a sponsorship feature into their tree of life, allowing people to pay to adopt specific leaves.
The fee for each sheet is directly related to the popularity of a species, which is determined by the number of views its page receives on Wikipedia. Humans are currently the most popular species overall, and like the most popular plant species, cannabis is taking the crown.
Leave sponsorship money supports the OneZoom Charity, whose mission is to “advance public education on the subjects of evolution, biodiversity and the conservation of the variety of life on Earth”.
Why is this important: Preventing the extinction of a species is not only important for this species – the loss of one species can affect others up and down the food chain, causing a ripple effect throughout the ecosystem.
A planet rich in biodiversity – one with many different species – is also beneficial to human health. Many useful medicines come from plants, animals, and fungi, and the more species we have to study, the better our chances of finding new ones.
“We have worked hard to make the tree easy for everyone to explore, and we also hope to send a powerful message: that much of our biodiversity is under threat,” said Rosindell.
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