Click, zoom and explore the tree of all life forms on Earth


Researchers from Imperial College and the University of Oxford have created an interactive tree of life called OneZoom. The team says the website is “the Google Earth of biology” and connects about 2.2 million living species.

You can zoom in to any species and explore its relationships with others and its IUCN status.

Dr. James Rosindell of Imperial College London and Dr. Yan Wong from the Big Data Institute at the University of Oxford described the creation in a paper published last week in the journal Methods in Ecology and Evolution.

“By developing new algorithms for visualisation and data processing, and combining them with ‘big data’ gathered from multiple sources, we’ve created something beautiful,” Dr. Wong said. “It allows people to find their favourite living things, be they golden moles or giant sequoias, and see how evolutionary history connects them together to create a giant tree of all life on Earth.”

The ‘leaves’ on the trees are colour-coded depending on their risk of extinction: green means the species is not threatened, red indicates threatened, and black denotes recently extinct.

“We have worked hard to make the tree easy to explore for everyone, and we also hope to send a powerful message: that much of our biodiversity is under threat,” Dr. Rosindell added.

Most of the leaves on the tree are grey in colour, indicating that they are not fully studied or data is deficient and we don’t know about their extinction risk. “It’s extraordinary how much research there is still to be done,” Dr. Wong said.

“Two million species can feel like a number too big to visualise, and no museum or zoo can hold all of them!” Dr. Rosindell said. “But our tool can help represent all Earth’s species and allow visitors to connect with their plight.”





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