This map is so beautiful it nearly brings tears to my eyes. I discovered it in Richard Dawkins’ book, “The Greatest Show On Earth” (page 330).
We’re cousins of chimpanzees. We’re also related to dolphins, kangaroos, slugs and pond scum. So what?
Darwin’s Theory of Evolution is brilliant beyond words. What’s truly amazing is that the concept took so long for us to figure out.
Excerpt from the book:
Detailed DNA comparisons will fill in all the gaps in our knowledge about the actual evolutionary relatedness of every epecies to every other: we shall know, with complete certainty, the entire family tree of all living creatures. Goodness knows how we’ll plot it; it won’t fit on any practical-sized sheet of paper.
The largest-scale attempt in that direction so far has been made by a group associated with David Hillis, brother of Danny Hillis who pioneered one of the first supercomputers. The Hillis plot makes the tree diagram more compact by wrapping it around in a circle. You can’t see the gap, where the two ends almost meet, but it lies between the ‘bacteria’ and the ‘archaea’. … The Hillis circular plot is the same, except that it has three thousand species. Their names appear around the outside edge of the circle above, far too small to read — though Homo sapiens is helpfully marked ‘You are here’. You can get an idea of how sparse a sampling of the tree even this huge plot is when I tell you that the closest relatives of humans that it can fit in the circle are rats and mice. The mammals had to be stripped down drastically, in order to fit in all the other branches of the tree to the same depth. Just imagine trying to plot a similar tree with ten million species in stead of the three thousand included here. And ten million is not the most extravagant estimate of the number of surviving species.