The Tree of Life

Charles Darwin first thought of the concept of the Tree of Life in the 19th century and his initial sketch of it is still famous today.  

Since then, there have been many different interpretations of the tree.  

Darwin's sketch separated species into different branches, whereas recent genetic evidence has suggested that genes, and characteristics, can be exchanged between species even after their branches have grown apart.  

Here are some drawings of the tree by different scientists, showing how it has evolved in the last 150 or so years. And you can discover your place in the Tree of Life with our interactive version.

  • A statue of Charles Darwin at the Natural History Museum
    Darwin's Tree of Life

    See the Tree of Life that Charles Darwin first sketched in a notebook when he was working on his theory of evolution.  

  • A modern interpretation of the tree of life © Sandie Baldauf, University of York
    A tree of cellular life

    Most of the Earth's biodiversity is made up of single-celled organisms. Here is a modern version of the Tree of Life that focuses mostly on microscopic organisms.

  • Human branches of the Tree of Life
    Interactive Tree of Life

    Find out how you and other species are related to each other. Just how close are you to a banana?

Evolution app for iPad

Our new Evolution app for iPad

Explore more than 650 million years of Earth's extraordinary history with our first app for iPad, NHM Evolution.

Learn about more than 800 creatures and plants, examine spectacular 360° high definition fossil images and watch specially-commissioned videos of Museum experts discussing the latest evolutionary theories.

More about the NHM Evolution app