A modern interpretation of the Tree of Life (Credit: TOL Web Project)
The Tree of Life provides a framework, a way of thinking about and investigating questions in biology, from asking why certain groups of plants are more likely to be invasive species to understanding when and how humans evolved the ability to digest milk.
Some scientists get SO excited about the Tree of Life that they are inspired to do wacky thing … like cooking it. Dr. Roland Kays, the new Biodiversity and Earth Observation Director at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences Nature Research Center, recently brought the tradition he started at the New York State Museum to Raleigh. In the spirit of Darwin’s birthday, Roland and Chef Josh DeCarolis from Jujube in Chapel Hill joined forces to highlight the evolution of chili peppers in a Science-meets-Kitchen-Stadium-style presentation.
One of the goals of our work here at Your Wild Life is to challenge you to think about the species you interact with in your daily life. We’ll ask you to investigate the dark corners of your basement and sample the microbes hiding in plain sight on your refrigerator shelf. In return, we’ll share stories – old and new – about the species living on us, in us and around us who shape who we are and the world we live in.
So why not think about these stories in the context of the Tree of Life?
To that end, Rob Dunn – whose popular writings and book, The Wild Life of Our Bodies, has really inspired our work here – offers you a ‘Table of Evolutionary Contents’ (below). Here you can explore how the “ever branching and beautiful ramifications” of the Tree of Life (Darwin’s eloquent way of describing the diversity of life in the Origin of Species) intersect with your daily life.
Table of Evolutionary Contents
Bacteria (on Lady Gaga, on feet, in bathrooms, as influenced by antimicrobial wipes, as probiotics, in the appendix)
Yeast, (including the kind that produces penicillin and alcohol)
Dust mites, 6-legged basement dwellers, lice, bedbugs, houseflies
Chickens, pigeons and urban gardens, house sparrows (to be published next week, stay tuned)
The hamster, field mice, the cow, animal predators
For now, your Table of Evolutionary Contents is just a running list. But never fear, we’re mustering up our creative juices to represent it in tree-form. Stay-tuned.