the tree of life

Coworker Hannah recently passed along an amazing link: a browsable list of all (or, well, almost all) of the known species of life on earth, organized taxanomically.  The home page shows an innocent alphabetical list of the eight currently recognized kingdoms into which all living things are divided (Animalia, Archaea, Bacteria, Chromista, Fungi, Plantae, Protozoa, and Viruses – and I’ll be the first to admit that despite having a degree in biology I couldn’t really tell you what Chromista are).

Seems simple enough.  But man, click on one of those headings and you’re going down the rabbit hole.  Ever-deeping drop-down menus of each phylum, class, order, family, genus and species.  Latin name after exotic-sounding Latin name.  If you’re a biology nerd you could easily spend hours exploring this site.  Some things about the organization I don’t understand (for example, under birds it jumps directly to families, ignoring the orders I so painstakingly memorized in my college ornithology class – why?), but that doesn’t make the concept any less absorbing.  Just a warning, though, you’ll want to have Wikipedia open in another tab for when you inevitably find yourself wondering “just what the heck is a Gnathostomulid, anyway?”

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