Tree of Life – Big Picture

music
ambience: Marsh sounds, dawn

How are all the living things on our planet related to each other? Well, to answer that question, scientists have launched a multi-disciplinary project called “The Tree of Life.” I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet. Michael Donoghue is a Professor of Biology at Yale University.

“In the days of Linneaus or even um more recently, in the days of Darwin, it was possible to think of actually going out and discovering all of the species on earth and arranging them into a big classification that reflects how they’re related to one another. Nowadays it gets to be impossible for any one individual to get their brain around all of the diversity that’s out there on Earth. So we realize that there’s over a million and a half species; none of us can remember all of those. Assembling or reconstructing the entire Tree of Life becomes something that’s very enormous and it’s obviously a community effort on the part of scientists all around the world. “

“There are other very significant challenges including just, how do we get these things all into the same framework to come up with a picture of the entire Tree of Life. That becomes very problematical. In the old days of course we looked at the features, the external features of organisms, but if you think about it, organisms are so diverse, that that becomes very limiting. How do we compare a bacterium to a human being or a corn plant? Now we have lots of different kinds of data in the form of DNA sequences, but we need to sort of assemble very large sets of those DNA sequences and then carry out massive analyses; those are the sorts of challenges that face us.”

We’ll hear more about the Tree of Life in future programs. To hear about our CD, please visit pulseplanet.com. Pulse of the Planet is made possible by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.

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Tree of Life - Big Picture

DNA sequencing brings scientists closer to the understanding of how all living things are related through time.
Air Date:08/17/2006
Scientist:
Transcript:

music
ambience: Marsh sounds, dawn

How are all the living things on our planet related to each other? Well, to answer that question, scientists have launched a multi-disciplinary project called "The Tree of Life." I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet. Michael Donoghue is a Professor of Biology at Yale University.

"In the days of Linneaus or even um more recently, in the days of Darwin, it was possible to think of actually going out and discovering all of the species on earth and arranging them into a big classification that reflects how they're related to one another. Nowadays it gets to be impossible for any one individual to get their brain around all of the diversity that's out there on Earth. So we realize that there's over a million and a half species; none of us can remember all of those. Assembling or reconstructing the entire Tree of Life becomes something that's very enormous and it's obviously a community effort on the part of scientists all around the world. "

"There are other very significant challenges including just, how do we get these things all into the same framework to come up with a picture of the entire Tree of Life. That becomes very problematical. In the old days of course we looked at the features, the external features of organisms, but if you think about it, organisms are so diverse, that that becomes very limiting. How do we compare a bacterium to a human being or a corn plant? Now we have lots of different kinds of data in the form of DNA sequences, but we need to sort of assemble very large sets of those DNA sequences and then carry out massive analyses; those are the sorts of challenges that face us."

We'll hear more about the Tree of Life in future programs. To hear about our CD, please visit pulseplanet.com. Pulse of the Planet is made possible by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.

music