A Tree of life that included all the species know to humans until this say, has been created by two scientists from the University of Michigan.
The two biologists tagged 2.3 million species of plants, animals, fungi and microbes on the Tree of life. This is the first study to ever apply such efficient processes in assembling the tree of life, buy using other previously published trees. The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published the paper which summarizes the findings, on Sept. 18.
This tree goes back over 3.5 billion years, to the beginning of the Earth. What is even more impressive is that this digital source is available online for free, for anyone to edit. The tree of life thus represents the combined efforts of eleven institutions that illustrated the relationships among different species as they diversified over the years.
Morphological data and gene sequences were used by scientists in order to develop a colossal number of evolutionary trees that depict the evolution of animals, plants, fungi, and microbes.
Scientists found that all the organisms that live on Earth are in fact related through a common descent. That was a very important discovery to the scientific world and gave insight into the history of evolution. By reconstructing the tree of life, the scientists wanted to include all of the 2.3 million named species.
The tree of life will help scientists better understand how all the species on Earth are related to one another. By doing this they might even be able to trace the roots of infections diseases such as influenza, HIV, or Ebola.
Stephen A. Smith, an evolutionary biologist and assistant professor at the University of Michigan, lead the group that put together all the existing information into one detailed diagram.
Cody Hinchliff, a research software developer at University of Idaho is, along with Smith, first-author of the paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
“Many participants in the project contributed hundreds of hours tracking down and cleaning up thousands of trees from literature, then selecting 484 of them that were used to generate the draft tree of life. […] Our software, called ‘tree machine’, took a few days to generate the current draft tree of life on a moderately outfitted desktop workstation in Stephen’s office,” explained Hinchliff.
The process of putting together the 484 previously published trees took three years, Smith said. Scientists used $5.76 million in order to make the project.
Image Source: cdn.phys