A family album of evolutionary trees

Guest post by Theodore W. Pietsch

When most people think of trees, they envision the leafy-green, growing, photosynthesizing kind, but there’s a vast forest out there made up of an entirely different kind of tree—branching diagrams and related iconography that attempt to reveal the relationships of plants and animals. For at least the past 500 years, naturalists, realizing that words are not nearly enough, have sought to demonstrate similarities and differences (or to reveal the imagined temporal order in which God created life on Earth) among organisms pictorially, that is, through a fascinating array of diagrams of various sorts. Most of the diagrams resemble trees in the botanical sense—images with parts analogous to trunks, limbs, and terminal twigs.

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