How and Why to Build a Unified Tree of Life

Emily Jane McTavish, Bryan T. Drew, Ben Redelings, Karen A. Cranston

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Phylogenetic trees are a crucial backbone for a wide breadth of biological research spanning systematics, organismal biology, ecology, and medicine. In 2015, the Open Tree of Life project published a first draft of a comprehensive tree of life, summarizing digitally available taxonomic and phylogenetic knowledge. This paper reviews, investigates, and addresses the following questions as a follow-up to that paper, from the perspective of researchers involved in building this summary of the tree of life: Is there a tree of life and should we reconstruct it? Is available data sufficient to reconstruct the tree of life? Do we have access to phylogenetic inferences in usable form? Can we combine different phylogenetic estimates across the tree of life? And finally, what is the future of understanding the tree of life?.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1700114
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • data deposition
  • evolution
  • open science
  • phylogeny
  • tree of life

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology


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