The Tree of Life shows us how all life is connected and constantly evolving. It’s our ancestral family tree, tracing the relationships between all living things.
Where do we fit in?
Our species belongs to mammals, and they make up a tiny branch. The largest section of the tree contains the smallest life forms – microbes.
Humans are one dot in a complex network of life, and we still have much to learn about the ways in which we are alike and different from other members of the tree. Yet we share startling genetic similarities with many life forms, from bacteria to great blue whales and giant redwoods.
Why is the tree important?
The Tree of Life is a map of Earth’s biodiversity, the incredible variety of life.
The information we get from the Tree of Life helps us cure disease, develop new medicines, improve crops and even predict where species will migrate in our rapidly changing climate.
We are connected to the rest of life, both through our DNA and also through interactions with other species that share our planet. Understanding the relationships that link all life on Earth is important to our well-being. Even the smallest discovery could transform the world.
Why is the tree still growing?
Scientists have been building this tree for decades, accounting for all of the 2.3 million species that have been named so far on our planet. But this is only a first draft. We’ve only named a portion of what could be more than 20 million species. There could be whole branches of life that have not yet been discovered.
We have a long way to go to complete the Tree of Life.