About this Interactive Tree of Life
Phylogeny is the organizing principle of modern biological taxonomy.
A guiding principle of modern phylogeny is monophyly.
A monophyletic group is considered to be one that contains
an ancestral lineage and all of its descendants.
Any such group can be extracted from a phylogenetic tree with a single cut.
The tree shown here provides a guide to the relationships among the major
groups of extant (living) organisms in the tree of life.
The position of the branching "splits" indicates the relative
branching order of the lineages of life, but the time scale
is not meant to be uniform. In addition, the groups appearing
at the branch tips do not necessarily carry equal phylogenetic
"weight." For example, the ginkgo  is indeed at the apex of
its lineage; this gymnosperm group consists of a single living species.
In contrast, a phylogeny of the eudicots  could continue on
from this point to fill many more trees the size of this one.
The glossary entries that appear below the tree are informal descriptions of some major
features of the organisms described. Each entry gives the group's formal scientific name, followed
by the common name of the group. Numbers in square brackets reference the location of the respective groups on the tree.
It is sometimes convenient to use an informal name to refer to a collection of
organisms that are not monophyletic but nonetheless all share (or all lack) some common attribute.
We call these "convenience terms"; such groups are indicated in these entries by quotation marks,
and we do not give them formal scientific names. Examples include "Algae" , "Prokaryotes" , "Protists" ,
and "Protozoans" . Note that these groups cannot be removed with a single cut;
they represent a collection of distantly related groups that appear in different parts of the tree.
We also use quotation marks here to designate two groups of fungi that are not believed to be monophyletic.
For more details see Tree of Life web project.
The above phylogeny updates an earlier version
first provided by David Hillis, University of Texas, and is based on
The National Science Foundation's Assembling the Tree of Life project.
The on-line version was built for Sinauer Associates
on Discover Life.
A hard-copy version is in
LIFE -- The Science of Biology and subsequent editions.
The glossary terms link to pages on Discover Life that do not yet all conform to this tree.