RESOURCES: Growth Spurt at Tree of Life

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Science  21 Jan 2005:
Vol. 307, Issue 5708, pp. 329
DOI: 10.1126/science.307.5708.329d

The Tree of Life made a big splash when it debuted in 1994 in the Web's early days. But like many sites, it soon entered a dormant phase. Now the online phylogeny project has gotten new funding and a new educational mission and is seeking more contributors.

The revamped site retains the core of the original tree—now some 3000 pages on beetles, cephalopods, fish, flatworms, and other organisms—but it's now database-driven. That allows visitors to create custom pages on the fly that include, say, an online glossary or more images, notes co-creator David Maddison of the University of Arizona in Tucson. And the tree now invites visitors of all stripes to contribute material linked to the core scientific pages. This supplemental information might include a fruit fly geneticist's data, shots from a professional photographer, or “treehouses” created by children.

The tree's species pages have been sprouting new shoots, too, on groups such as angiosperms and fungi. Other sections—such as those on mammals and birds—are still mostly blank. But with revisions to the site's architecture and tools now complete, says managing editor Katja Schulz, “this is the year we hope the content takes off.”

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