Scientists have agreed that the Tree of Life that includes all types of life on Earth is starting to develop new branches. However, they do not mean two or three, but hundreds of them in what is currently the most complex genomic sketch created by researchers all across the world.
As biologists are hard at work in identifying and documenting every single life form that has existed on Earth since the dawn of time, it has become clear that the Tree of Life has to branch out. The sketch looks, of course, like a tree because of its numerous branches that expand from its trunk. This expansion is currently taking place because of the numerous discoveries that have been made over the past years.
In recent years, scientists stumbled upon various bacteria that now make up over half of the total diversity f the microscopic life forms. Considering the size of these life forms, you can only imagine the infinite diversity of our world’s life.
Brett Baker is one of the researchers that worked on the sketch of the tree of life. He believes that the genealogy sketch should stand as the primary organizing unit of biology so that other researchers can fully understand the connections between all living creatures.
Stepping back in time, it was naturalist and geologist Charles Darwin that designed the first so-called Tree of Life, by drawing trees in an attempt to understand what connects all living beings on this planet, but also their evolution. Back in the present time, scientists are making use of genetic sequences to draw the tree.
Darwin believed that all living things on Earth have evolved from bacteria and microbes, and hoped to demonstrate this theory through the tree metaphor. The trunk of the Tree of Life stands for the original life form, from which all others evolved. While the thicker branches represent the elaborate forms of life, the budding twigs are the most recently discovered creatures.
If until now the sketch used to be created by describing organisms such as plants and animals, the team of researchers decided to tackle the matter in a different way. At the moment, they are using individual genomes to draw the branches and thus update and reconfigure the Tree of Life.
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