Ants and the tree of life visualized

Today I am going to show you how huge and messy the tree of life really is. This is purely here because it is cool and it can help to put things into perspective. Enjoy.

If you learned about taxonomy in school you were probably shown something like this:

Image result for classification of life
“Classification of life” (

Looks simple right? That’s because it is. If you want to see what the tree of life is actually like then this is for you.

Please find the page here.

See if you can find ants starting from the most general overview of the tree of life. I will include instructions of how do find them below but please give it a go first and zoom in as far as you like. See if you can find humans and any other species you like!

Where to start and how the tree of life is currently sorted at its most generalized level!

To find ants on this tree follow:

Eukaryota>Opisthokonta>Metazoa>Eumetazoa>Bilateria>Protostomia>Ecdysozoa> Panarthropoda>Arthropoda>Mandibulata>Pancrustacea>Hexapoda>Insecta> Dicondylia>Pterygota>Neoptera>Holometabola>Hymenoptera>Apocrita>Aculeata> Formicoidea>Formicidae!

You made it! Now you know why I have a love-hate relationship with taxonomy. It has so many issues. Like why does the Formicoidea superfamily exist? It only has one family in it! I will save my issues for another day. Please have fun with the tree. See how beautiful it is and how many unclassified species there are in ants alone!

And to find a specific species there are even more steps. To find a specific subspecies of ant you would have to sort through 26 levels of classification because they have a Tribe, genus, species and sub-species. That is a few more than the 7 in the first chart of this post. There are also species groups and ring species and we don’t even know what a species is and I am spiralling.

Moral of the story: Taxonomy is complicated, so very complicated.

This tree is based on current understanding so it will be outdated eventually and it contains the species on NCBI only. While this is a fantastic database, please be aware they may not have all species that all databases have. I am not saying this is the case but just keep it in mind.

I hope you enjoyed this different type of post today. I hope you have fun with it and please share it to anyone you think will enjoy it. Thanks,


If you have enjoyed this site and its content please consider donating so I can add more content in the future.

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