About the OneZoom Tree of Life Explorer Software

OneZoom is a registered charity in the UK. Our aim to provide easy access to scientific knowledge about biodiversity and evolution, and raise awareness about the variety of life on earth together with the need to conserve it. The OneZoom software allows you to explore the tree of life in a completely new way: it's like a map, everything is on one page, all you have to do is zoom in and out. We hope you have fun exploring the OneZoom tree of life - we've certainly had fun developing it. Even after thousands of hours working on it, we are still frequently astonished at what it reveals about the world around us. Here are some details about how it all works.

Original motivation for OneZoom

Big data is a growing issue in Science and Industry. Modern computing has enabled large amounts of data to be captured and stored and has revolutionised many branches of science. These advances, however, lead to challenges, such as how to explore and visualise large data sets. The very first blue-skies idea that could have been identified with OneZoom was that of a mind map so vast that it could contain all human knowledge.

The concept involved making the information easy to explore by laying it out in ever smaller bubbles using a fractal structure and a zooming interface so that the computer never runs out of space to put the information no matter how much there is.

The idea was untouched for some time until one day, James Rosindell visited Charles Darwin's Down house with Luke Harmon who he was working with on a number of scientific projects. Luke in particular made a big deal of their walking down Darwin's thinking path and said that they should try to think of a new idea to commemorate the occasion. The photo shows James (left) and Luke (right) in front of Down house, taken just after their lap of the thinking path. It is unfortunate that none of the ideas they discussed whilst actually on the thinking path have led anywhere yet, but it was less than two hours later when wandering around central London that the topic of tree visualisation came up and James suggested a possible way to visualise the tree of life based on an adaptation of his fractal mind map idea.

James initially worked on coding OneZoom only during his spare time, taking advice from Luke in particular, but also from many others. After that, James further developed OneZoom as part of his research program at Imperial College London, which is funded by a research fellowship from the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC).

Data sources

The data used to construct the main tree on this site is from a hand-crafted mix of sources, but relies heavily on the Open Tree of Life project, to whom we are extremely grateful. For further, extensive information and references, please explore the tree where the data sources menu item reveals full details about where the data came from. If you are an expert on certain species, we encourage you to contribute data to the OpenTree project.

Images of species on the tree have been harvested from the internet by the Encyclopedia of Life project (EoL). We have only selected images that are in the public domain, or released under a creative commons license that allows reuse if the author is credited (and sometimes requires you to make any changes also available). For further information on any image, zoom into the copyright symbol next to the picture. The symbol also serves as a link to the source of the image on EoL. We must thank EoL for their fantastic resource, and helpful responses to our various requests.

In the current version, the red leaves of the tree correspond to species that are threatened with extinction according to the IUCN Red List of threatened species. Formally, these species are categorised as vulnerable, endangered, or critically endangered.

Additional trees featured on this website may use different data and each has its own acknowledgents for data use, in the tree caption and/or embedded in the tree viewer itself.


The names of donors to the OneZoom charity may appear on leaves of the tree. This is a thank you acknowledgement for individual support, it is not advertising and does not link to external pages. Donations contribute towards the aims of the OneZoom charity, which are to provide easy access to scientific knowledge about biodiversity and evolution, and raise awareness about the variety of life on earth together with the need to conserve it. Our efforts are currently focused on developing this visualization of the tree of life. Please note that donations do not contribute directly to (for example) conservation of a particular species – and neither are species named after sponsors.

OneZoom team

  • James Rosindell (Trustee)
  • Luke Harmon (Trustee)
  • Yan Wong (Trustee)
  • Helene Morlon
  • Kai Zhong
  • Jonathan Sutton

Our charity number is 1163559

Our registered address is OneZoom, Office 7, 35-37 Ludgate Hill, London, EC4M 7JN, UK

You may also view a copy of our registration certificate

The original OneZoom codebase is now primarily being maintained by the charity OneZoom which has adapeted the earlier (open source) versions of OneZoom into the present website.

OneZoom Software

The OneZoom software uses fractals to condense the entire tree of life into a single, zoomable page. OneZoom® is so named because all the information is on a single page: all you have to do is zoom to reveal details. To find out about its gradual development, see our timeline. Or find out how you can use OneZoom on your own website, for research or education, by going to our developer page where a suite of software is available for reuse under an open source MIT license.

People and credits

The current version of software has been developed jointly by Dr James Rosindell, who primarily worked on visualisation and Dr Yan Wong, who primarily worked on synthesising the tree data. They recently received assistance from Kai Zhong in producing an update capable of handling the complete tree of all complex life. Jonathan Sutton also made notable contributions to the present codebase.

Yan is a coauthor with Professor Richard Dawkins on The Ancestor's Tale: a history of life which has made extensive use of the OneZoom visualisations. The research done for the book has in turn contributed to the dataset used by the OneZoom software.

James originally devised the OneZoom concept and early versions of the software in 2011 which was published with Dr. Luke Harmon in 2012 as OneZoom: A Fractal Explorer for the Tree of Life in PLoS Biology. Since then Kai Zhong has also had significant input into the OneZoom codebase that this software is based on.

We are very grateful to Richard Dawkins and Alice Roberts for their kind promotion of OneZoom at events and on social media.

Laura Nunes helped at science outreach events and wrote labels for the original bird tree. Matthew Speight and Matishalin Patel also helped at science outreach events. Duncan Gillies assisted James Rosindell in the supervision and recruitment of Kai Zhong who worked full time on the project for several months helping us to make significant progress. Matishalin Patel, Sean Jordan and Matthew Speight all helped demonstrate OneZoom at public events.

Discover Life and Map of Life were partner projects to the original OneZoom project. Their resources are linked to earlier OneZoom trees that are still supported. We hope to be able to link in with the latest version of OneZoom too though we have yet to perform this work.

We would also like to thank the following people (in alphabetical order): Austin Burt, Joseph Brown, Noah Constant, Stephen Cornell, Joel Cracraft, Mick Crawley, Jonathan Eastman, Rampal Etienne, Robert Ewers, Rich FitzJohn, James Foster, Matt Gitzendanner, Mark Hammond, Lisa Harmon, Michelle Harrison, Klaas Hartmann, Jacob Hepworth-Bell, David Hillis, Nick Isaac, Walter Jetz, Jeff Joy, James Keirstead, Mike Kiparsky, Bill Kunin, Simon Levey, Curtis Lisle, Georgina Mace, Catriona MacCallum, Lynsey McInnes, Arne Mooers, Jack Nijjar, David Orme, Guillermo Orti, Ian Owens, Rod Page, William Pearse, Matt Pennell, Albert Phillimore, Jacqueline Phillimore, Andy Purvis, Alex Pyron, Donald Quicke, Erica Bree Rosenblum, Jill Rosindell, Owen Rosindell, Martin Sayers, Nilay Shah, Graham Slater, Doug Soltis, David Tank, Gavin Thomas, Nina Thornhill, Oliver Worsfold, Amy Zanne