Picturing the Tree of Life August 16 2014, 0 Comments

I have just received two posters that depict the Tree of Life. They are from Fairhope Graphics - www.fairhopegraphics.com. One is a basic level illustration for younger children. Its title is "A Story of the Life Around Us," and it has reasonable simplifications for beginners. The Archaea aren't shown, for example. The artwork is bright and inviting, and best of all, the information that is shown looks quite accurate. This poster would be good for beginning lower elementary students, and perhaps even for kindergarten age children. You may have to explain to children that the leaves pictured around the tree represent extant organisms, and are more than just leaves. When children are ready for more details, the second poster, "A History of Existing Life," supplies more of the story and does it attractively and with good accuracy. The Archaea are here, as well as major branches of both prokaryotic domains. Red lines show the endosymbiosis of mitochondria and chloroplasts. The chloroplast line could have been better placed to point to the archaeplastida, but at least it comes from the right branch, the cyanobacteria. The protists get more space on this poster, and the major branches of the eukaryotes are shown. There's an approximate timescale on the left, with arching lines across the tree that show the five major extinctions. I like seeing names such as eudicot, Deuterostomia; Ecdysozoa; and Amniota. The birds are shown properly as a branch of the reptiles, specifically the dinosaur branch of the archosaurs. The organisms pictured on the poster are extant, and they are illustrated with attractive 19th century artwork. These authors did their homework and produced a useful learning aid for all of us. The caption on the tag says that the posters grew out of a "family's journey to understand the connections between fossils they had found and the sea urchins they loved in Maine tidal pools." What a great product of curiosity!

It is important for children to see these "cartoon" tree-of-life diagrams before they see the official scientific evolutionary trees. It is much easier to mentally picture the branches and keep them straight with the simplified diagrams. That is the approach I took with my Tree-of-Life chart. You can find my diagram with my products, and download it for free.