TimeTree is a public knowledge-base for information on the evolutionary timescale of life. A search utility allows exploration of the thousands of divergence times among organisms in the published literature. A tree-based (hierarchical) system is used to identify all published molecular time estimates bearing on the divergence of two chosen taxa, such as species, compute summary statistics, and present the results . . . For those interested in published summaries of relationships and divergence times of major groups of organisms (family level and above), see the authoritative synthesis The Timetree of Life.
Here are some examples to get you started: Humans and Chimpanzees diverged 6.3 MYA
; Giraffes and Dolphins diverged 58.3 MYA
; Cats and Mice diverged 95.2 MYA
; and Dogs and Fleas diverged 777.8 MYA
. [more inside]
"The ability to design and create new forms of life marks a turning-point in the history of our species and our planet."
- Freeman Dyson, on the J.C. Venter Institute's creation of a cell controlled by a synthetic genome. We are now in the business of engineering life.
How much life could you find in one cubic foot?
With a 12-inch green metal-framed cube, photographer David Liittschwager (of the Endangered Species Project)
surveyed biodiversity in land, water, tropical and temperate environments around the globe for National Geographic. At each locale he set down the cube and started watching, counting, and photographing with the help of his assistant and many biologists. The goal: to represent the creatures that lived in or moved through that space. The team then sorted through their habitat cubes and tallied every inhabitant, down to a size of about a millimeter
. [more inside]
The amazing story of the coelacanth
is one of the wonders of the living world that inspires marine biologists such myself. Coelacanths, part of the offshoot lineage of fishes known as "lobed finned ", are very different from typical "ray finned" fishes that you usually think of. Their bizarre lobed fins
are thought to be an intermediate step between fish fins and amphibian legs. Scientists had known that these weird fish existed because of fossils for over a century, but we believed that they went extinct 65 million years ago... until a South African fisherman caught one in 1938. [more inside]
What Invasive Species Are Trying to Tell Us.
"Walking snakeheads, carnivorous snails, and the superpredator from the reef: The invasion has begun." [Via]
What Is A Species?
"To this day, scientists struggle with that question. A better definition can influence which animals make the endangered list."
The All Species Inventory
is a non-profit organization dedicated to the complete inventory of all species of life on Earth within the next 25 years - a human generation. It's an interesting project, based on open-source ideology (check out their "Principles
") but seems to be limiting itself to strictly Linnaean
We're finding new fauna in some of the most heavily-populated areas on earth.
It sort of makes you wonder what how many species we never even know about as we slash and burn great hunks of the rain forests, wooded areas, and other biodiverse areas of the world. (And good grief, those bugs are huge