The tree of life just got another major branch. Researchers recently found a certain rare and mysterious microbe called a hemimastigote in a clump of Nova Scotian soil. Their subsequent analysis of its DNA revealed that it was neither animal, plant, fungus nor any recognized type of protozoan — that it in fact fell far outside any of the known large categories for classifying complex forms of life (eukaryotes).
Instead, this flagella-waving oddball stands as the first member of its own “supra-kingdom” group, which probably peeled away from the other big branches of life at least a billion years ago.
This paper compares and categorizes historical ideas about trees showing relationships among biological entities. The hierarchical structure of a tree is used to test the global consistency of similarities among these ideas; in other words we assess the “treeness” of the tree of historical trees. The collected data are figures and ideas about trees showing relationships among biological entities published or drawn by naturalists from 1555 to 2012. They are coded into a matrix of 235 historical trees and 141 descriptive attributes.
From the most parsimonious “tree” of historical trees, treeness is measured by consistency index, retention index and homoplasy…