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History of life through time

Life! It's everywhere on Earth; you can find living organisms from the poles to the equator, from the bottom of the sea to several miles in the air, from freezing waters to dry valleys to undersea thermal vents to groundwater thousands of feet below the Earth's surface. Over the last 3.7 billion years or so, living organisms on the Earth have diversified and adapted to almost every environment imaginable.

3 Domains of Life (click one to start exploring)
Bacteria Eukaryota
Archaea
This exhibit provides a survey of that biodiversity through time, focusing on major lineages of organisms. Many of these lineages have gone extinct or currently exist at a much lower diversity than in the past, so there may be large exhibits on groups of organisms that are unfamiliar to you. They are featured because they play an important role in the history of life on Earth.

Ways to begin your exploration:

  • Click on one of the three domains to the left.

  • Go straight to our list of available taxa.

  • Learn more about phylogeny and cladistics, to find out how biologists reconstruct the pattern of events that led to the diversity of life (this link goes to the UCMP's Understanding Evolution website).

  • Learn more about evolution, to understand the mechanisms at work that have resulted in the biodiversity we see today (this link goes to the UCMP's Understanding Evolution website).