Evolution: 550 myr in 1 minute

June 21, 2015 • 2:30 pm

Here’s a video of the progress of evolution beginning with microbes and leading to humans, and then in reverse (note that it sees evolution as a progression towards H. sapiens, which is an anthropocentric way to see it; you could, for example, show the same animation culminating in a squirrel, or better yet a cat). Nevertheless, it’s clever, and you can also get it as a book that unfolds to be 30 meters long.


30 thoughts on “Evolution: 550 myr in 1 minute

  1. The book may have more in the way of detail, but I’d have liked some labeling in the video itself at least of the major groups they’re tracking, to remind viewers that what they’re seeing aren’t graphics picked out of a hat, but drawing on actual fossil taxa that they are depicting as they trace the phylogeny back.

    1. They do a few in the bottom right, if that helps, though some of them are just generic labelling of taxa rather than identifying helpful fossil remains.

      One of the weirder ones is placodermi, which I’m sure was an evolutionary cousin and not particularly close to the prehistory of bony fish.

        1. No, placodermi were a branch within Gnathostomata. They don’t feature in our direct ancestry, so the video shouldn’t really feature them as if they did.

  2. Neat…but, better still, would be to trace back from humans to an ancient ancestor…then back along another branch to some other modern species…repeated a dozen times or so for a good sampling of the evolutionary tree. Including plants!

    Say…back to the LCA with chimps and out to chips, back to the LCA with cats and out to a cat, then a bird, and so on.

    …something of a bigger project, I know….


      1. Cmdr Hadfield made this comment on twitter about this video the other day when someone pointed out that it looked like him:

        “That’s a fun animation. I do like the great-grandfather’s stylish spacesuit!”

    1. Yes. And now we know that Kenny wears boxers. That is the only area in which we will agree.

  3. We have a new kitten in the house. It’s curled up in the Bernes’ tail.
    Squeeze me for being picky but if you where to represent domestic animals would you need a sequence or two depicting artificial selection.
    An ancient Egytian going “squee” over a kitten or something.

    1. What is nice about this one is that it shows the history of life on a proportional time scale, where for billions of years we have only microscopic life forms then whamo, Animals–>Vertebrates–>Primates.

    2. I see you were credited with the concept, very cool! I really enjoyed the video, and the deck of cards was an interesting way to show the slivers of time. The timescale is so vast, it’s still difficult to wrap your head around. Well done!

        1. You know…might be good to couple that lesson with a scale model of the Solar System. I’d have to do the math, but I think the Sun as a softball in the center of the track might have the Earth as something BB-sized at about the track radius and still have Pluto on campus somewhere. Proxima Centauri, of course, would be miles away and the other side of the Milky Way on the other side of the continent and Andromeda out by the Moon, but….


    3. The concept is great!

      But, oy, the details. Too certain dates, too certain hypotheses, unless I missed some caveat in the presentation.

      Some of my amateurish nits:
      – Soup theory instead of or complemented with fuel cell theory starts to feel stale.*
      – First life and bacteria is dated at their upper limits.
      – No archaea.
      – Multicellularity by [cell?] fusion. I suspect cyanobacteria may beg to differ.
      – Eukaryotes are dated at their lower limit (the earliest date of the pre-mitochondrion Rickettsiales lineage).
      – Pterodactyls are “crocodiles and birds”, and
      – birds are sisters to dinosaurs instead of avian dinosaurs.
      – And the piece de resistance, a linear progression of Homo from chimp-like ancestors, when chimps are more derived than we are and the hominin tree is as bushy as can be.
      – Neanderthals are among our ancestors too. Cousin marriage? =D

      Still, it is much better than some other attempts, and it must be a good sell!

      * FWIW, last week’s Astrobiology -15 had a session on testing emergence theories. I can’t see any soup papers in there. If I placed betting odds, that would be my latest basis.

      1. I think I switched “is” and “are” again. Sigh. I was away from school most of first year of english.* Well, English for pretense. Formative events, so it still shows…

        * (A bout of measles and its follow ups; seems research now says the immune system is reset and it takes 3 years to catch up again. A major killer – without vaccines.)

  4. I’d like to see such a film that just shows the archaea lineage, just to really drive home the point that todays single celled organisms are also at the leaves of an evolutionary tree, just as much as we are.

    1. John Harshman
      Posted June 21, 2015 at 7:40 pm | Permalink

      There are some weird things in that tree too, as it shows acanthodians morphing into sarcopterygians.

      If you mean that metamorphosis from one animal to another, that isn’t linear, more of a tangential show of development.

  5. Reblogged this on Random musings, rambling opinions and commented:
    These are the kinds of animations that I like. When you look at it, you just see evolution making sense. Gradual changes over time, over a long enough period producing impressive differences. Nicely done!

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