DEC 15, 2021 2:57 PM PST

A New Way to Visualize the Tree of Life, and Its Vulnerabilities

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

The history of life on Earth can be visualized as a branched tree. Some of those branches have spawned more growth, while others have died. The history of species and their relationships can now be visualized with a tool called OneZoom, which is freely available at onezoom.org. There, the links between 2.2 million species have been laid out on a web page, which can be explored. The site also includes images of about 85,000 species, and information about how vulnerable some of those species are to extinction. OneZoom has also been outlined in a paper in Methods in Ecology and Evolution. The study authors called this effort “the Google Earth of biology.”

OneZoom screenshot

Species are represented by 'leaves' on the tree, and they're color-coded according to their extinction status. If a species status is not known, the leaf is grey. We do not known whether most species are at risk of extinction. But if there is data showing an animal is not threatened, its leaf is green, while red represents threatened and black signifies recently extinct.

“By developing new algorithms for visualization and data processing, and combining them with big data gathered from multiple sources, we’ve created something beautiful. It allows people to find their favorite living things, be they golden moles or giant sequoias, and see how evolutionary history connects them together to create a giant tree of all life on Earth," said study co-author Dr. Yan Wong, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Oxford .

The researchers aimed to make this technology easy to use so anyone can explore the species of Earth, and the challenges that many now face. The researchers “hope to send a powerful message that much of our biodiversity is under threat," said study co-author Dr. James Rosindell of the Department of Life Sciences at Imperial.

They also configured this data to work with touchscreens so it could be used more easily in places like classrooms and museums. They're hopeful that it will allow institutions to bring more information to visitors.

“Two million species can feel like a number too big to visualize, and no museum or zoo can hold all of them! But our tool can help represent all Earth’s species and allow visitors to connect with their plight,” noted Rosindell.

The scientists also integrated data from Wikipedia regarding how many times a page for a species has been viewed. “Perhaps unsurprisingly, humans come out on top, but it has swapped places a few times with the second most popular: the grey wolf - the ‘species’ that includes all domestic dogs,” said Wong.

Popular plants include cannabis, potatoes, and coconut, while salmon and trout are among other popular species of animals.

Sources: Imperial College London, Methods in Ecology and Evolution

 

About the Author
BS
Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on over 30 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 70 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
JAN 31, 2022
Genetics & Genomics
Small Dog Genetics Originated in Ancient Wolves
JAN 31, 2022
Small Dog Genetics Originated in Ancient Wolves
It's been thought that small dogs were bred that way to fill a demand for man's tiny best friend. But it seems that thei ...
MAR 06, 2022
Plants & Animals
Does Your Pet's Food Have Endangered Shark In It? DNA Technology Can Tell.
MAR 06, 2022
Does Your Pet's Food Have Endangered Shark In It? DNA Technology Can Tell.
Sharks play crucial roles in marine ecosystems. As predators, they loom large at the top of many marine food chains and ...
APR 12, 2022
Neuroscience
Your Brain on Natural vs. Added Sugar
APR 12, 2022
Your Brain on Natural vs. Added Sugar
When we think of sugar, we often affiliate it with junk food like cereal, candy, or soda, and in turn often associate it ...
MAY 12, 2022
Earth & The Environment
Precipitation helped drive distribution of Alaska dinosaurs
MAY 12, 2022
Precipitation helped drive distribution of Alaska dinosaurs
Dinosaurs are fascinating creatures, and everyone has their favorite one, most notably the Tyrannosaurus Rex, rightfully ...
MAY 10, 2022
Plants & Animals
Cutting calories and timely eating increases mice longevity
MAY 10, 2022
Cutting calories and timely eating increases mice longevity
Who doesn’t want to live forever? Let’s face it, the whole mortality thing is boring, and we want to be aliv ...
MAY 15, 2022
Earth & The Environment
This Day in Science: Mount St Helens Eruption Anniversary
MAY 15, 2022
This Day in Science: Mount St Helens Eruption Anniversary
Volcanic eruptions are some of the most awesome spectacles in nature, as watching the interior of the planet we live on ...
Loading Comments...