The tree of life comes from Charles Darwin’s revolutionary book on the theory of evolution, called On the Origin of Species. Scientists from Rutgers and their international partners have reshaped this tree in a paper published in the online journal Trends in Ecology and Evolution.
“In our opinion, one should not classify the bacteria or fungi associated with a plant species in separate phylogenetic systems (trees of life) because they’re one working unit of evolution,” said paper senior author Debashish Bhattacharya, distinguished professor, Department of Ecology, Evolution and Natural Resources. “The goal is to transform a two-dimensional tree into one that is multi-dimensional and includes biological interactions among species.”
Today’s tree of life fails to recognize or include forms of life that are linked physically and that evolve together (known as symbiomes) and focuses instead on individual species and lineages, as if they are independent of other branches.
The authors propose a new tree of life framework that incorporates symbiomes, called SYMPHY, short for symbiome phylogenetics. The authors believe that an enhanced tree of life will have broad and likely transformative impacts on many areas of science, technology and society.
Read more about this new, more inclusive way of looking at and studying life on our planet in Science Daily.