Origin & Evolution of Life

Timetree of Life

By Keith Cowing
June 16, 2009

Scientists and non-scientists now have easy access to information about when living species and their ancestors originated, information that previously was difficult to find or inaccessible. Free access to the information is part of the new Timetree of Life initiative developed by NAI’s Blair Hedges, professor of biology with the Penn State Astrobiology Research Center, and Sudhir Kumar, a professor of life sciences at Arizona State University.

The Timetree of Life project debuted with the simultaneous release of a book titled The Timetree of Life (Oxford University Press), which is written by a consortium of 105 experts on specific groups of organisms and is edited by Hedges and Kumar.

“The TimeTree of Life web tool belongs to a new genre of resources that lets anyone easily mine knowledge previously locked up in technical research articles, without needing to know the jargon of the field,” said Kumar. “For example, if you type in ‘cat’ and ‘dog,'” Hedges said, “the program will navigate through the timetree of life to the point where the cat and dog species split, and it will find all the studies bearing on that divergence. Within a few seconds, you will learn that your pet cat and dog diverged in evolutionary time about 50 to 60 million years ago.” For more information: http://www.timetree.org/

[Source: NAI Newsletter]

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