Origins: From Jungle to Lab.  The Story of Life's Complexity
Picture: Pinned Insect
People Ideas Tools Place Live

Understanding life's complexity

From the smallest bacteria to the largest mammals, life comes in a huge variety of forms. Where did each one come from? Why are there so many? And how are they all related?

To understand this complexity, biologists ask two interlocking questions:

Are these different species, or just varied individuals?

Only a fraction of all the existing life forms have been identified. To fill in our picture of the living world, biologists search for new species—groups of organisms that reproduce with one another and share a common evolutionary history.

Botanist Nancy Garwood is identifying the species within a group of closely-related plants that grow in Belize. To do this, she has to look at everything from their outward appearances to the structure of their DNA.

What are the relationships between them?
Shelves in the Darwin Centre are labeled by genus Once a new species has been identified, biologists give it a name that reflects its relationship to other species.

By reconstructing the earth's "family tree," researchers like entomologist Andrew Polaszek can better understand how today's species developed from a common ancestor that arose billions of years ago.



Know the Biology
Tree of Life
Who Cares?
What's Evolution?
What's a Species?

Origins: Exploratorium: From Jungle to Lab

Comments on our web site?
Tell us by using our
online survey.

© Exploratorium

Origins From Jungle to Lab: The Story of Life's Complexity Origins Exploratorium From Jungle to Lab