App Puts Tree of Life on Your iPhone
The scientists who put an innovative tree of life online last year are now making it available for the iPhone, iPod, and iPad.
The free "TimeTree" application lets users harness a vast Internet storehouse of data about the diversity of life, from bacteria to humans. The interface is designed to answer a simple question, quickly and authoritatively: how long ago did species A and species B share a common ancestor?
The app "can be fun for people who want to learn how long ago their cat and dog began evolving down different evolutionary paths, in addition to being a useful scientific tool," said Blair Hedges, professor of biology at Penn State University in a statement.
The app gives anyone the power to explore an area at the forefront of comparative biology and to find his or her place in the timetree.
To use the TimeTree app from the Apple Store , users type names of two organisms, such as dog and human, into the program interface. TimeTree searches its massive Web archive and returns its findings within seconds.
"We're still in the infancy of timetree building," Hedges said. "There are millions and millions of known species whose genes scientists worldwide are working to sequence, and there are many more species that have yet to be discovered. We are looking forward to adding these emerging new data to the TimeTree knowledge base so that everyone can easily explore the tree of life and its timescale."
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