Evolution on earth can be modeled on a “tree of life” which shows the genealogical relationships among living and extinct creatures. Charles Darwin first used the term “tree of life” in the early 1800s to describe the concept of a branching-off of species from ancestors. Now we use the term phylogeny, devised by biologist Ernst Haeckel, to describe the evolutionary relationships of species through time — the modern “tree of life” is called a phylogenetic tree.
Over the past decade, increasingly detailed knowledge of the evolutionary patterns and processes of life on Earth has been gained — as has the knowledge of how much more there is to be learned.
“All species alive today, and all that have lived on Earth, share at least one thing in common–a phylogenetic history,” says Maureen Kearney, GoLife program director in NSF’s Division of Environmental Biology.
The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded $7.4 million in its first Genealogy of Life (GoLife) grants, supported by NSF’s Directorates for Biological Sciences and for Geosciences. Aiming to resolve the evolutionary history of all species’ lineages (living, extinct, and poorly known), the new GoLife program seeks to synthesize as much data as possible to create a unified knowledge base for comparative research.
GoLife awards will advance the understanding of how new species evolve; how extinctions have happened throughout time; how present day species adapt to changing environments; and of biogeographic and ecological patterns and processes. The first round of GoLife awards support studies of terrestrial vertebrates, poorly known and ancient groups of fungi, and microbes.
For more information: NSF awards $7.4 million for research on species’ evolutionary history