Biology » Phylogenies and the History of Life » Organizing Life on Earth

Introduction to Phylogenies

 Photo shows a bee collecting nectar from a flower.

The life of a bee is very different from the life of a flower, but the two organisms are related. Both are members the domain Eukarya and have cells containing many similar organelles, genes, and proteins. (credit: modification of work by John Beetham)

This bee and Echinacea flower (see the figure above) could not look more different, yet they are related, as are all living organisms on Earth. By following pathways of similarities and changes—both visible and genetic—scientists seek to map the evolutionary past of how life developed from single-celled organisms to the tremendous collection of creatures that have germinated, crawled, floated, swam, flown, and walked on this planet.

Organizing Life On Earth

In scientific terms, the evolutionary history and relationship of an organism or group of organisms is called its phylogeny. A phylogeny describes the relationships of an organism, such as from which organisms it is thought to have evolved, to which species it is most closely related, and so forth. Phylogenetic relationships provide information on shared ancestry but not necessarily on how organisms are similar or different.

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