The evolution of life is often depicted in a tree-like fashion (although, at some places, it might be more like a web). This tree analog for life’s evolution is evident in a new project to visualize the evolutionary relationships of life on earth, which has been getting quite a bit of attention on Twitter. It’s called OneZoom, and according to the authors and developers, it’s an effort to move beyond the ‘paper paradigm’, which means that most illustrations of evolutionary relationships are optimized for printing on paper.
Not so for OneZoom, which aims to take advantage of the possibilities computers offer. Much like Google Earth, you can zoom in on the tree of life while staying on the same page. The design is inspired by fractals (roughly: objects look similar at different scales, see video).
So far, only the mammal tree has been visualized this way, but the amphibian one is underway. An app is also under development and by 2014 they aim to include 2 million species, the data provided by the Open Tree of Life Project.
I encourage you to watch the tutorial below and explore the tree.
The authors/developers conclude:
Our dream for the more distant future is an easily accessible web page presenting all that we know about life on Earth in one place. The logical way to do this is to build around the tree of life visualized using OneZoom; we may yet see the Google Maps equivalent for all life on earth.
For some slight reservations, check this post on iPhylo.
Rosindell, J., & Harmon, L.J. (2012). OneZoom: A Fractal Explorer for the Tree of Life. PLOS Biology, 10 (10) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1001406.g004