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Avian Tree of Life

December 16, 2015

This is a really cool online depiction of 9,993 species of birds.

The Avian Tree of life - OneZoom.org

The Avian Tree of life – OneZoom.org

Using your mouse and scroll wheel, or the on-screen buttons, you can move around the avian tree of life, zoom in, zoom out and see where each and every one of the 9,993 species are located, and how closely they are related to all the other species. You’ll be surprised at how the birds are now grouped. Your field guide is not adequate preparation for this. Plus there are many other viewing options such as an animated time line.

As you scroll in, the time of separation of a species or species group from their closest relatives is displayed.

Time separating Abert's and California Towhees from Tree of Life

Scroll in farther and links appear for each species to their entries on five information websites: Wikipedia, Discover Life, Encyclopedia of Life, Map of Life, and ARKive. Conservation status and population stability is displayed.

California Towhee closeup from Tree of Life

California Towhee closeup from Tree of Life

This is only one division of the entire tetrapod tree, comprising 22,821 species, located at: OneZoom Tree of Life Explorer. In addition to birds, this tree includes: 5,713 amphibians, 5,024 mammals, 1,835 lizards & snakes, 233 turtles & allies, and 23 crocodilians.

Additionally, if you can believe it, there’s yet another tree for 31,128 species in the plant tree of life: 593 gymnosperms, 43 waterlilies & allies, the monotypic Amborella, 36 star anises & allies, 30 chloranthus, 3 hornworts, 53 monocots, 53 pepper family, 960 poppies & allies, 10,009 gooseberries, roses & allies, and it just keeps going for another 11,324 species.

I’m not making this up. Someone spent a lot of time making this aspect of evolutionary science fun and easy.

Links to the three Trees of Life have been added to the right margin under “Other Blogs.”

Many thanks to birder Richard Carlson of Tuscon & Lake Tahoe for alerting me to this.  [Chuck Almdale]

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