Tree of Life

Cosma Home > Communication > Knowledge > Realm > Terrestrial > Sphere > Life > Tree of Life



These are organized by a classification scheme developed exclusively for Cosma. More…



Tree of life or Universal Tree of Life is a metaphor, model and research tool used to explore the evolution of life and describe the relationships between organisms, both living and extinct, as described in a famous passage in Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species (1859).

The affinities of all the beings of the same class have some-
times been represented by a great tree. I believe this simile
largely speaks the truth. — Charles Darwin

Tree diagrams originated in the medieval era to represent genealogical relationships. Phylogenetic tree diagrams in the evolutionary sense date back to at least the early 19th century. The term phylogeny for the evolutionary relationships of species through time was coined by Ernst Haeckel, who went further than Darwin in proposing phylogenic histories of life.

In contemporary usage, tree of life refers to the compilation of comprehensive phylogenetic databases rooted at the last universal common ancestor of life on Earth. The Open Tree of Life, first published 2015, is a project to compile such a database for free public access. — Wikipedia

Encyclopædia Britannica


Taxonomy is the science of defining and naming groups of biological organisms on the basis of shared characteristics. Organisms are grouped together into taxa (singular: taxon) and these groups are given a taxonomic rank; groups of a given rank can be aggregated to form a super-group of higher rank, thus creating a taxonomic hierarchy. The principal ranks in modern use are domain, kingdom, phylum (division is sometimes used in botany in place of phylum), class, order, family, genus and species. The Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus is regarded as the father of taxonomy, as he developed a system known as Linnaean taxonomy for categorization of organisms and binomial nomenclature for naming organisms.

With the advent of such fields of study as phylogenetics, cladistics, and systematics, the Linnaean system has progressed to a system of modern biological classification based on the evolutionary relationships between organisms, both living and extinct. — Wikipedia

Encyclopædia Britannica

Why should we care about species? (Jody Hey, Nature Education)
A list of 26 species ‘Concepts (John S. Wilkins, Evolving Thoughts Science Blog)

Tree of Life (Wellcome Trust)

OneZoom Tree of Life EXplorer

Tree of Life Web Project (David Maddison, Katja-Sabine Schulz, and Wayne Maddison)
Tree of Life Web Project (Wikipedia)

Web Lift to Taxa (University of California Museum of Paleontology)


Evolutionary biology is the subfield of biology that studies the evolutionary processes that produced the diversity of life on Earth, starting from a single common ancestor. These processes include natural selection, common descent, and speciation.

The discipline emerged through what Julian Huxley called the modern synthesis (of the 1930s) of understanding from several previously unrelated fields of biological research, including genetics, ecology, systematics and paleontology. — Wikipedia

Computational phylogenetics is the application of computational algorithms, methods, and programs to phylogenetic analyses. The goal is to assemble a phylogenetic tree representing a hypothesis about the evolutionary ancestry of a set of genes, species, or other taxa. For example, these techniques have been used to explore the family tree of hominid species and the relationships between specific genes shared by many types of organisms. Traditional phylogenetics relies on morphological data obtained by measuring and quantifying the phenotypic properties of representative organisms, while the more recent field of molecular phylogenetics uses nucleotide sequences encoding genes or amino acid sequences encoding proteins as the basis for classification. Many forms of molecular phylogenetics are closely related to and make extensive use of sequence alignment in constructing and refining phylogenetic trees, which are used to classify the evolutionary relationships between homologous genes represented in the genomes of divergent species. — Wikipedia

The Open Tree of Life
Synthesis of phylogeny and taxonomy into a comprehensive tree of life (Hinchliff, Cody E., et al., Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences)
Automated assembly of a reference taxonomy for phylogenetic data synthesis (J. Rees & K. Cranston, Biodiversity Data Journal)



Carl Linnaeus (University of California Museum of Paleontology)
Carl Linnaeus
Linnaean taxonomy (Wikipedia)

Darwin Library, Now Online, Reveals Mind of 19th-Century Naturalist (Jie Jenny Zou, Chronicle of Higher Education)
My dear old friend: Darwin the man revealed as 40-year correspondence published online (University of Cambridge)
Darwin Correspondence Project (Cambridge University)

Darwin Manuscripts Project (American Museum of Natural History)
Looking for Darwin (Lloyd Spencer Davis)
Darwin’s Finches and Natural Selection in the Galapagos (Earthwatch)
Charles Darwin in the Galapagos (Galapagos Islands)
Charles Darwin (Encyclopædia Britannica)
Charles Darwin (Wikipedia)


Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History (Washington, DC)
American Museum of Natural History (New York, NY)
Field Museum (Chicago, IL)
Harvard Museum of Natural History (Cambridge, MA)


WorldCat, Library of Congress, UPenn Online Books, Open Library




Crash Course Biology (YouTube Channel)

Crash Course Ecology (YouTube Channel)

OER Commons: Open Educational Resources


News, NPR Archives








Charles Darwin in the Galapagos (Galapagos Islands)


Visual Arts

Tree of Life (Pinterest)



Tree of Life is (also) a widespread archetype in the world’s mythologies, related to the concept of sacred tree more generally, and hence in religious and philosophical tradition.

The tree of knowledge, connecting to heaven and the underworld, and the tree of life, connecting all forms of creation, are both forms of the world tree or cosmic tree, and are portrayed in various religions and philosophies as the same tree. — Wikipedia

Encyclopædia Britannica


More… - latest science and technology news stories internet news portal provides the latest news on science including: Physics, Nanotechnology, Life Sciences, Space Science, Earth Science, Environment, Health and Medicine.

  • Ancient enzymes the catalysts for new discoveries
    on October 22, 2018 at 3:25 pm

    University of Queensland-led research recreating 450 million-year-old enzymes has resulted in a biochemical engineering 'hack' which could lead to new drugs, flavours, fragrances and biofuels. […]

  • Researchers propose CRISPR as influencer of low...
    on October 18, 2018 at 6:30 pm

    Scientists at Oregon State University have shed light on the evolutionary history of a soil-borne bacteria that is so dangerous to grazing animals it is kept behind lock-and-key to prevent its spread. […]

  • Study links genes to social behaviors, including...
    on October 18, 2018 at 4:20 pm

    Those pesky bees that come buzzing around on a muggy summer day are helping researchers reveal the genes responsible for social behaviors. A new study published this week found that the social lives of sweat bees—named for their attraction to perspiration—are linked to patterns of activity in specific genes, including ones linked to autism. […]

  • 150-million-year old, piranha-like specimen is...
    on October 18, 2018 at 3:00 pm

    Researchers reporting in Current Biology on October 18 have described a remarkable new species of fish that lived in the sea about 150 million years ago in the time of the dinosaurs. The new species of bony fish had teeth like a piranha, which the researchers suggest they used as piranhas do: to bite off chunks of flesh from other fish. […]

  • Did eating starchy foods give humans an...
    on October 18, 2018 at 2:30 pm

    Gene AMY1, which kickstarts digestion of starch in the mouth, is associated with blood glucose levels and digestion of carbohydrates, with implications for understanding human evolutionary biology and the gut microbiome. […]