Thanks to Scott in Kentucky for the link
A new iPhone app, TimeTree, allows users to see in a few moments how long ago they shared a common ancestor with any species on Earth.
The TimeTree of Life. The app allows users to see when their common ancestor with cane toads lived. Photo: TIMETREE
The app, developed by scientists at Penn State University in the USA, includes an image of the "Tree of Life" - a circular image showing the route life has taken from its single source to the 1,610 taxonomic families that exist (containing an estimated total of between seven and 100 million individual species). Users enter the names of any two species or families, and TimeTree will tell you how long ago their common ancestor lived.
So humans and their fellow mammals and, say, flatfish are pinpointed as sharing a common ancestor 495 million years ago. Humans and their fellow Old Word primates split from the New World monkeys at 44.2 million years ago, humans and rest of the apes from monkeys 30.4 million years ago, while humans and chimpanzees went their separate ways a mere eight million years in the past. All of that is dwarfed by the split between archaea and all other life, which happened 3,833.3 million years ago - when the Earth itself was just 700 million years old.
The free app - for the Apple iPhone and iPad - and accompanying website are the brainchild of Professor Blair Hodges of Penn State and Dr Sudhir Kumar, a PhD graduate of the same university now at Arizona State. The two have also co-authored an accompanying free-to-download book, The TimeTree of Life, which looks in detail at how the Tree has been assembled. “One of the most important things about this knowledge base,” says Kumar, “is that it makes it possible for anyone to see the current agreements and disagreements in the field, immediately.”
... continue reading