Check out your ancestors

Here’s a handy little resource of anyone interested in evolutionary science – The Timetree of life.  It enables you to find the last common ancestor of two species. Or, as the website describes it:

“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. Names of two taxa to be compared are entered in the search window and the results are presented on a separate page.”

You can try it out at the search page. Just enter two names and click on search. This is the summary of what I got for humans and onions. Yes, we diverged 1408 million years ago.

Summary Information

Query Taxa: Homo sapiens/Allium cepa
Result Comparison Fungi/Metazoa group/Viridiplantae
Study Weighted Average (#genes) Simple Average
All (14) 1407.8 Mya 1457.8 Mya
Nuclear (14) 1407.8 Mya 1457.8 Mya
TimeTree Expert Result
Time Publication Year PDF Link
1628.0 2009 Bhattacharya et al.

Mobile application

An iPhone application of Timetree was also  recently launched (see TimeTree for iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad).Very handy for those with and iPod or iPhone (or iPad) who wish to check out common ancestors while on a bus or in a cafe. Here are a couple of the screenshots from the app.

There is even a short video demonstrating the application


But wait, there’s more. The information is available as a book The Timetree of Life, edited by S. Blair Hedges and Sudhir Kumar and with Foreword by James D. Watson.

And a lot of the information can be downloaded as pdf documents from the Timetree website.

See also: The great tree of life

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