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W. Ford Doolittle, American Association for the Advancement of Science

Biology Program Presents

Thursday, December 6, 2018
The Tangled Tree: A New Understanding of the History of Life, followed by a discussion with Dr. John Ferguson
Reem-Kayden Center Laszlo Z. Bito '60 Auditorium
6:00 pm – 7:30 pm
Gabriel G. Perron, Biology Program
“There is a grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, are are being, evolved” (Darwin, 1859).

Where do we come from? How did we evolve from unicellular microorganisms into complex machines capable of self-reflection? Darwin provided an answers in his On the Origin of Species, first published in 1859. Even though Darwin was obsessed with visual representations on his findings, he included a single diagram in his major volume. The diagram depicted what is now known as the “Tree of Life.” A tree with a single origin (or root) with offshoots growing vertically and occasionally branching off from each other, indicating the evolution a new species. This view was favored by biologists, evolutionary biologists, and philosopher alike for much of the 20th century. Recent work, however, brilliantly described by David Quammen in The Tangled Tree, suggests that the history of life may have taken a different path. Thanks to new genomic tools, we can now observe that some of the branches may be experiencing fusion (or grafting) events. In other words, it is now time to rethink the shape the tree of life. In this public talk, Gabriel Perron will describe the events that led to the redefinition of our tree of life and discuss the implications of this finding.

For more information, call 845-752-2334, or e-mail

Time: 6:00 pm – 7:30 pm

Location: Reem-Kayden Center Laszlo Z. Bito '60 Auditorium