The best interactive tree of life ever!

There’s a new, fractally constructed tree of life—with dates of the nodes—called OneZoom, and you must have a look at it. It was created by Dr. Yan Wong (who helped write The Ancestor’s Tale with Richard Dawkins) and Dr. James Rosindell; Luke Harmon contributed to the original idea.  The background and methods are explained on a page you can access by clicking on the magnifying glass at the lower right-hand corner of each searched page, or go here. It’s still a work in progress, and you can help the tree grow by sponsoring a leaf. The project is a charity, so your donations are tax free.

This just went up yesterday, and it’s already so extensive that, I’m told, if you printed the whole thing out it would be seven times larger than the solar system! I can’t vouch for that, but the fractal design is certainly impressive. Click on the screenshot below to get started, and remember these instructions:

Each leaf represents a different species and the branches show how they are related through evolution.

This tree of life is explored like you would a map, just zoom in to your area of interest to reveal further details.

To zoom you can use a touch screen (if you have one) or scroll up (zoom in) and down (zoom out) on your mouse or trackpad.

The search icon (second from the left) gives you an easy way to search or go straight to popular areas of the tree.

The location icon (third from the left) shows you which part of the tree of life you are looking at in the context of all life on earth.

If a leaf is coloured red this means the species it represents is known to be threatened with extinction.

Leaves with a dotted outline represent parts of the tree that are not filled out yet, if you sponsor one of the species in this part of the tree we will expand the tree to include your species.

Here’s one example you can use. Click to stop the zoom, and use your mouse or touchpad to get to clickable icons.

Screen Shot 2016-04-30 at 10.22.22 AM

For example, go to the mallard (here) to see the full capabilities of the system.

Finally, there’s a special version to accompany The Ancestor’s Tale, with all the common ancestors between Homo sapiens and other species numbered.

30 Comments

  1. Posted April 30, 2016 at 11:51 am | Permalink

    The format reminds me of Pretzi.

  2. Posted April 30, 2016 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    Excellent!

  3. Joseph Stans
    Posted April 30, 2016 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

    Unfair. I am 70 years old and I will spend all my time until I am 143 playing with this.

    My significant other will not be appreciative. WE will not speak of this in her presence.

  4. Randy Schenck
    Posted April 30, 2016 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

    Always good to see we are of least concern.

    Yet another digital advance in information.

  5. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted April 30, 2016 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

    That is already pretty awesome. And if this keeps building it will be very very awesome. I see that to pan around one must first zoom out some distance, and then zoom in to the new area. At present I am wishing one could just pan around.

    • ploubere
      Posted April 30, 2016 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

      That’s probably not practical. Zooming loads new information specific to that branch. If all the information was loaded at the start, it would probably take too long to load. Also, at the highest zoom level, you’d probably have to pan great distances to get to another area.

  6. EvolvedDutchie
    Posted April 30, 2016 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

    I will enjoy this interactive tree all weekend.

  7. ploubere
    Posted April 30, 2016 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

    Brilliant.

  8. Torbjörn Larsson
    Posted April 30, 2016 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

    Fractalicious!

  9. Doris Fromage
    Posted April 30, 2016 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

    Sorry, off topic, but here is a “Magic Eye” pic I think you all will enjoy: http://41.media.tumblr.com/871f0f29be974a285ce2309d9fd282a7/tumblr_nppwnyIN9w1qz4auzo2_1280.jpg

  10. Posted April 30, 2016 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for such a great article and kind feedback. It’s so nice to see that people are enjoying OneZoom. Especially when Yan and I both just worked for 3 full days on it with only a few hours sleep in total!

    OneZoom is still a work in progress so what you see now is by no means the finished product. Please come back to see how it’s going.

    We really appreciate the donations from those who have sponsored leaves on the tree – we’ll release a new tree in a couple of days with all your names on.

    • p. puk
      Posted April 30, 2016 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

      Wow… Just wow!

      Ancestor’s Tale is my favouristy tome evar so Yan’s name immediately brought back memories of leaving work early to rush home and devour more.

      But wait? This took just 3 days to code? Genius!

      • Posted April 30, 2016 at 6:11 pm | Permalink

        Thanks! Yan is sitting opposite me and really appreciated your comment about the book. You may already know this, but later this year a new version of that book will come out in the US (the UK launch was a few days back coinciding with the launch of the OneZoom charity). Have a look here for more details http://www.ancestorstale.net

        3 days? I’m afraid not …. think more in terms of 3 years, I was just referring to the last 3 days!

  11. W. Benson
    Posted April 30, 2016 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

    Truly impressive!

  12. Gamall
    Posted April 30, 2016 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

    Great.

    I recall a similar zooming app showing the relative scales, from the subatomic level to superclusters. I can’t seem to find it again, though.

  13. Posted April 30, 2016 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

    A very interesting start. It should be even more compelling once they include fossil forms (dinosaurs and therapsids aren’t on their field yet) that will only reinforce the diversity of life.

  14. bencbt
    Posted April 30, 2016 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

    Wow! Thanks!!

  15. Merilee
    Posted April 30, 2016 at 7:01 pm | Permalink

    Totes amazeballs, like

  16. Steve Gerrard
    Posted April 30, 2016 at 9:10 pm | Permalink

    The Ancestor’s Tale meets the Mandelbrot Set. What a wonderful way to display it all. Looking forward to reading the book for the third time when the new edition is out.

  17. Rupinder
    Posted April 30, 2016 at 10:45 pm | Permalink

    Great!! I’ll see if I can use it in my class on evolution!

  18. nicky
    Posted May 1, 2016 at 5:26 am | Permalink

    Really the best *ever*, not an exaggeration.
    This zooming fractal mode is indeed the best way to present a ‘tree of life’, possibly the only workable format to get millions of species in one tree.
    It needs a lot more work and filling in, of course, but the idea is brilliant -and beautiful. Kudos to Yan and James!

  19. Maryann
    Posted May 1, 2016 at 11:40 am | Permalink

    Thanks for this – best Tree of Life ever – already got lost in exploring this thing and lost track of time…gotta get back to work! wow…

  20. Ron Cunningham
    Posted May 2, 2016 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

    This is awesome. Thanks for putting it up.

    Just a detail you might want to fix: I notice that the pic for the Indian Pangalin shows a couple of lions!

    • Posted May 2, 2016 at 7:31 pm | Permalink

      Hi Ron, thanks for letting us know! This kind of thing can happen and we’ll fix it for the next update very soon. If you click on the copyright symbol next to the image you can see the original source on EOL – looking at this it’s clear that the lions were eating a pangolin that was just outside the crop area of the square image on the tree.

      • dan
        Posted May 3, 2016 at 4:44 am | Permalink

        Any chance you could use a picture of a pangolin *not* being eaten?

        • Posted May 3, 2016 at 9:23 am | Permalink

          Yes, of course – we were always intending to change it. Have a look here.

          http://www.onezoom.org/life.html?init=zoom#ott3613429

          This tree is so huge that it’s built automatically without humans having looked at all parts of it. For this reason images with more than one animal in the same shot can cause a problem. When people tell us about this kind of thing though, we’ll fix it.

          I hope you like the new Pangolin!

  21. Andrea Kenner
    Posted May 3, 2016 at 5:18 am | Permalink

    Wow, Amazing!

  22. Posted May 3, 2016 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

    We’ve got lots more leaves sponsored on our tree of life already. Here are a couple of examples
    Crowned shrew – sponsored by Jacques Hausser
    http://www.onezoom.org/life.html?init=zoom#ott885247
    Giant Kelp – sponsored by Stefanie Ross
    http://www.onezoom.org/life.html?init=zoom#ott753585
    We’ve also made some improvements already to make it easier for you to sponsor your own.


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