Tree of Life Meaning - Evolution


Evolution and the Tree of Life


Presented herein is a collection of videos and articles pertaining to the evolutionary aspect of the Tree Of Life story.


portrait of Charles Darwin at age 72, Tree of Life author Charles Darwin, 1859

"The affinities of all the beings of the same class have sometimes been represented by a great tree... As buds give rise by growth to fresh buds, and these if vigorous, branch out and overtop on all sides many a feebler branch, so by generation I believe it has been with the great Tree of Life, which fills with its dead and broken branches the crust of the earth, and covers the surface with its ever branching and beautiful ramifications."




Charles Darwin and the Tree of Life is a 2009 television documentary about Charles Darwin and his revolutionary theory of evolution through natural selection, produced by the BBC to mark the bicentenary of Darwin's birth - follow this link to watch the video

Charles Darwin and the Tree of Life title card  

Open Tree of Life Project: The tree of life links all biodiversity through a shared evolutionary history. This project will produce the first online, comprehensive first-draft tree of all 1.8 million named species, accessible to both the public and scientific communities ....... click link to read more

Exploring the evolutionary tree of life is now as easy as navigating an online map, thanks to a new interactive website.

October 16th 2012: The OneZoom manuscript is published in PLoS Biology, the first in the journal's new "Cool Tools" series. The OneZoom website, videos and software all go live.

Joel Cracraft on OneZoom: "This will revolutionize how we teach and understand the Tree of Life. It is an invaluable tool for communicating the grand scope of life's history."

David Hillis on OneZoom: "The problem of visualizing an evolutionary tree for millions of species is a challenging one. OneZoom provides a creative solution that will be of great utility, especially for web-based representations of the Tree of Life."



The Earth is inhabited by millions of different life forms, and all have been connected through common ancestry in The Tree of Life. The Tree describes the diversity and interconnectedness of all living things on Earth. This video shows the current research that is being done to fully discover the Tree of Life.

Produced for the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History with the support from the U.S. National Science Foundation through the CIPRes and Angiosperm Tree of Life Programs.

The Tree of Life is of great scientific interest, but does it have immediate practical value? The answer is a definite Yes!

By providing a chronicle of past evolutionary events, phylogenetic trees have become central to understanding the process of evolution, and therefore to the interpretation of all biological information. Phylogenetic comparisons with model organisms (such as the chimpanzee, mouse, zebra fish, and yeast) are providing major insights into the structure and function of the human genome, knowledge that will enable us to address a wide variety of human disorders. Medical journals routinely publish phylogenetic trees, which have proven to be critical in identifying and tracing the origins of emerging infectious diseases such as HIV, the Ebola and West Nile viruses, anthrax, and influenza.

Travels in the Great Tree of Life was produced for the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History with the support from the U.S. National Science Foundation through the CIPRes and Angiosperm Tree of Life Programs

Prokaryotic evolution and the tree of life are two different things



Title: Prokaryotic evolution and the tree of life are two different things
Author: Bapteste, Eric; O'Malley, Maureen A; Beiko, Robert G; Ereshefsky, Marc; Gogarten, J Peter; Franklin-Hall, Laura; Lapointe, François-Joseph; Dupré, John; Dagan, Tal; Boucher, Yan; Martin, William
Department: Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dept. of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Publisher: BioMed Central
Issue Date: 2009-09
Abstract: Background: The concept of a tree of life is prevalent in the evolutionary literature. It stems from attempting to obtain a grand unified natural system that reflects a recurrent process of species and lineage splittings for all forms of life. Traditionally, the discipline of systematics operates in a similar hierarchy of bifurcating (sometimes multifurcating) categories. The assumption of a universal tree of life hinges upon the process of evolution being tree-like throughout all forms of life and all of biological time. In multicellular eukaryotes, the molecular mechanisms and species-level population genetics of variation do indeed mainly cause a tree-like structure over time. In prokaryotes, they do not. Prokaryotic evolution and the tree of life are two different things, and we need to treat them as such, rather than extrapolating from macroscopic life to prokaryotes. In the following we will consider this circumstance from philosophical, scientific, and epistemological perspectives, surmising that phylogeny opted for a single model as a holdover from the Modern Synthesis of evolution. Results: It was far easier to envision and defend the concept of a universal tree of life before we had data from genomes. But the belief that prokaryotes are related by such a tree has now become stronger than the data to support it. The monistic concept of a single universal tree of life appears, in the face of genome data, increasingly obsolete. This traditional model to describe evolution is no longer the most scientifically productive position to hold, because of the plurality of evolutionary patterns and mechanisms involved. Forcing a single bifurcating scheme onto prokaryotic evolution disregards the non-tree-like nature of natural variation among prokaryotes and accounts for only a minority of observations from genomes. Conclusion: Prokaryotic evolution and the tree of life are two different things. Hence we will briefly set out alternative models to the tree of life to study their evolution. Ultimately, the plurality of evolutionary patterns and mechanisms involved, such as the discontinuity of the process of evolution across the prokaryote-eukaryote divide, summons forth a pluralistic approach to studying evolution. Reviewers: This article was reviewed by Ford Doolittle, John Logsdon and Nicolas Galtier.
ISSN: 1745-6150
Citation: Bapteste, Eric et al. “Prokaryotic evolution and the tree of life are two different things.” Biology Direct 4.1 (2009): 34.
Version: Final published version
Terms of Use: Creative Commons Attribution
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Journal: Biology Direct