Sunday, May 28

The tree of all known life is already on the Internet

Researchers from Imperial College London and the University of Oxford have developed a unique website to explore all life on Earth and its evolutionary history: integrates the connections between 2.2 million living species. The explorer includes images of more than 85,000 species and reports on their vulnerability to extinction, in a clear message that expresses the extent to which biodiversity is threatened.

The Explorer OneZoom It is the closest thing to discovering all the species known to science at once: a true tree of life on Earth. According to a Press release, Dr. James Rosindell and Dr. Yan Wong, creators and promoters of the project, have focused especially on making the digital tree easy for everyone to explore, both from its functionality and with respect to the ordering of information.

Consequently, the website is divided into three basic sections, according to the visitor’s objective: for scientific use, for educational use and for the general public. When accessing the species search engine, you enter the relationship area of ​​the selected species, appreciating its connection with others and also integrating the data from the information available on Wikipedia. Due to the functionalities it offers in a single portal, the researchers baptized it as “The Google Earth of biology”.

A complete and functional tree

The result of the efforts made to achieve a smooth exploration and visualization of all the available information, including images and metadata, allows easy and agile access on all kinds of devices, even in relatively old mobiles. The scientists laid out their findings on work done in a new study, recently published in the journal Methods in Ecology and Evolution.

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It is worth noting that the portal is configured to work with touch screens and computers, but the developers have also managed to make the functions of the web take advantage of through free downloadable software, intended for educational organizations such as museums or theme parks. In this way, entities can integrate the information available in the virtual tree of life in a wide variety of interactive exhibits or displays.

Over 10 years of work, the website has attracted almost 1.5 million online users and is supported at the same time by an innovative long-term sustainability plan: the sections of each species can be sponsored or sponsored, and also OneZoom has been transformed into a non-profit organization, destined to promote and disseminate the project through other actions and related initiatives.

Related Topic: They finish the draft of the first big ‘tree of life’.Related Topic: They finish the draft of the first big ‘tree of life’.

An opportunity to think

It is important to note that the spaces that correspond to each species in the tree have been color-coded, depending on their Danger of Extinction. Green represents non-threatened species, red for those that are threatened, and black for recently extinct ones.

However, most of the spaces have been classified as gray: this means that there is not enough scientific information on the degree of threat faced by the species. Both the percentage of threatened species, as well as the large number of life forms that have not been studied or analyzed based on the threats they face, clearly show that the tree of life on the Internet can serve to raise awareness about the great danger it faces. humanity, to put biodiversity at riskput biodiversity at risk in the planet.

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Dynamic visualisation of million-tip trees: The OneZoom project. Yan Wong and James Rosindell. Methods in Ecology and Evolution (2021). DOI:

Video: Imperial College London / YouTube.

Photo: OneZoom.

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