You are related somehow and in some way to every person on Earth, living or dead.

  • Genghis khanAlbert einsteinEmma watsonCusterBarak obamaHuli tribesmanSally rideHank arron
  • Hillary clintonGenghis khanHypatia weiszSan tribesmanMaoMaori princessAlbert einsteinMartin luther king
  • Dolly madisonCharles darwinSally rideQueen victoriaHank arronMarie curieHillary clintonChief joseph

Evolutionary Genealogy

Conventional genealogy describes the relationships between members of a family or a group of closely related families. This is usually depicted graphically by a family tree. The relationships between brothers, sisters, cousins, grandparents and great-grandparents are illustrated as points on a branching tree. Most family trees only go back a few generations, but they stop only because of lack of information. They of course really keep going, to great-great-great grandparents, great-great-great-great grandparents, and so on. In fact, if you keep going back in time, your family tree will eventually join up with the family tree of every other person on the planet. You are related somehow and in some way to every other human on the planet, living or dead, whether it be Martin Luther King, Hillary Clinton, Madam Curie, Charles Darwin or Queen Victoria.

Pick any person on the street. Travel far enough back in time and you will meet the common ancestor the two of you share, which makes that person your cousin. Genetic information can suggest when the common ancestor you share may have lived. If the common ancestor is just two generations back (in other words, a shared grandparent), that person is your first cousin. If the common ancestor is three generations back (in other words, a shared great grandparent) that person is your second cousin. That person's child would be your second cousin, once removed, and their grandchild your second cousin twice removed. If the common ancestor happens to be 30 generations back (in other words, a shared 28-greats-grandparent) that person is your 29th cousin.

‘Every individual living thing is your cousin. And approximately your xth cousin, n times removed.’

The Tree of Life

The Evogeneao Tree of Life does the same thing as a standard family tree; except that it goes back hundreds of millions of generations, back to the start of life on Earth. Just as in a standard family tree, the genealogical relationship between members of Life's family can be described. Every living thing, whether it’s a bird, a tree, or a dinosaur, is your xth cousin, n times removed.

Calculating your genealogy with other life forms

To make an estimate of the cousin and removal relationship between you and any other living thing, count up the generations back to the common ancestor on both lines of descent. This sounds easy, but is complicated in practice. First, make an estimate of the number of generations along the human line of descent back to the common ancestor. Use commonly accepted estimates for generation times of humans, as well as those creatures likely to be templates for our successively older ancestors; chimpanzees, other apes, various species of monkey, tree shrews, and so on. Next, apply the appropriate generation times to time intervals along the line of descent. For example, between 25 and 40 million years ago, that is, between the approximate ages of our common ancestors with old world and new world monkeys, respectively, the ancestor on the human line could be assumed to be a creature somewhat similar to a new world monkey and thus have an average of ten years per generation. In the absence of direct information on generation times for a species, it can be estimated by noting average life expectancy in the wild, years to first birth, and average age at last birth.

Second, calculate the number of generations along the non-human line of descent back in time to the common ancestor with humans. Helpful data would include evolutionary history, generation times of the modern creature, and the generation times of modern creatures likely to serve as templates for intermediate forms along the evolutionary path to the common ancestor with humans. Generation times for intermediate forms can be estimated from likely body size; smaller forms generally having shorter generation times. If no data are found on forms intermediate between the current species and the common ancestor, evenly distribute the change in generation times between the current species and common ancestor along the time between them. At the point of common ancestry, generation times along both lines of descent should be the same.

An excellent source for animal generation times is https://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/

An excellent source for times of common ancestors is https://www.timetree.org/

Other helpful sources are listed on the bottom of our Teachers page

Our cousin and removal estimates encompass chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans, other apes and monkeys, tree shrews, rodents, rabbits, dogs and other carnivores, horses, pigs, and other domestic animals, whales, bats and shrews, reptiles, birds and amphibians, fish, as well as beetles, dragonflies, corals, fungus, plants and even bacteria. A sample of the graphic technique used to post these data and make cousin and removal calculations is shown below.

The reader will certainly see that there is unavoidably a potentially large error in any single one of the estimates used to come up with a cousin and removal relationship. The age of the common ancestor, the ages to intermediate ancestors, their likely forms, and their generation times may be poorly known. A big error in any one estimate could push the outcome off base quite a bit. However, it is at least reasonably likely that errors cancel each other out and that the overall result yields a reasonable estimate. The goal of this exercise is not to determine an exact relationship, only to get reasonably close to illustrate the point. In other words, we can be pretty certain our common ancestor with chimpanzees is between our 150,000-greats-grandparent and our 400,000-greats-grandparent, with the most likely number of ‘greats’ being perhaps between 200,000 and 300,000. But the real point is that that individual chimpanzee at the zoo looking you in the eye has a genealogical relationship with you, such that the chimp could be something like your two hundred and fifty-four thousand three hundred and fifty sixth cousin, nine thousand seven hundred and twenty times removed.

Note that, except for close relations, there is NOT a unique genealogical path between two organisms. It is much more likely to be a tangled web of interrelationships, depending on which tortuous path of ancestors one followed back to the common one. But as long as this is understood, the exercise of counting generations back to a common ancestor is really an eye-opener for all who make the journey.

Species Common ancestor Cousin relationship to present-day humans
Neanderthal - extinct 400 thousand years ago 20 thousandth cousin, 1.2 thousand times removed
Common chimpanzee 6.5 million years ago 280 thousandth cousin, 10 thousand times removed
Mountain gorilla 7 million years ago 310 thousandth cousin, 40 thousand times removed
Bornean orangutan 14 million years ago 660 thousandth cousin, 15 thousand times removed
White-handed gibbon 18 million years ago 1 millionth cousin, 400 thousand times removed
De Brazza's monkey 25 million years ago 1.6 millionth cousin, 500 thousand times removed
Squirrel monkey 40 million years ago 3.1 millionth cousin, 900 thousand times removed
Philippine tarsier 58 million years ago 6.1 millionth cousin, 3.5 million times removed
Ring-tailed lemur 63 million years ago 7 millionth cousin, 3.5 million times removed
Common treeshrew 70 million years ago 12 millionth cousin, 35 million times removed
Desert cottontail 75 million years ago 17 millionth cousin, 35 million times removed
House mouse 75 million years ago 17 millionth cousin, 80 million times removed
Bighorn sheep 85 million years ago 27 millionth cousin, 35 million times removed
Domestic cat 85 million years ago 27 millionth cousin, 23 million times removed
Domestic dog 85 million years ago 27 millionth cousin, 24 million times removed
Dromedary 85 million years ago 27 millionth cousin, 35 million times removed
Fruit bat 85 million years ago 27 millionth cousin, 17 million times removed
Harbor seal 85 million years ago 27 millionth cousin, 20 million times removed
Long-tailed shrew 85 million years ago 27 millionth cousin, 125 million times removed
Przewalski's horse 85 million years ago 27 millionth cousin, 28 million times removed
Three-toed sloth 95 million years ago 37 millionth cousin, 20 million times removed
Giant anteater 95 million years ago 37 millionth cousin, 20 million times removed
Nine-banded armadillo 95 million years ago 37 millionth cousin, 20 million times removed
Three-toed sloth 95 million years ago 37 millionth cousin, 20 million times removed
Aardvark 105 million years ago 47 millionth cousin, 13 million times removed
African bush elephant 105 million years ago 47 millionth cousin, 4 million times removed
Red-necked wallaby 140 million years ago 80 millionth cousin, 3 million times removed
Catopsbaatar 170 million years ago 100 millionth cousin, 35 million times removed
Long-beaked echidna 180 million years ago 120 millionth cousin, 7 million times removed
Long-beaked echidna 180 million years ago 120 millionth cousin, 7 million times removed
Mammal-like reptile - extinct 240 million years ago 145 millionth cousin, 125 million times removed
Synapsid - extinct 240 million years ago 145 millionth cousin, 125 million times removed
Diplodocus - extinct 320 million years ago 175 millionth cousin, 130 million times removed
Ichthyosaur - extinct 320 million years ago 175 millionth cousin, 125 million times removed
Pterosaur - extinct 320 million years ago 175 millionth cousin, 110 million times removed
Triceratops - extinct 320 million years ago 175 millionth cousin, 120 million times removed
Ichthyosaur 320 million years ago 175 millionth cousin, 125 million times removed
Tyrannosaurus rex - extinct 320 million years ago 175 millionth cousin, 120 million times removed
Eastern box turtle 320 million years ago 175 millionth cousin, 95 million times removed
Indian cobra 320 million years ago 175 millionth cousin, 60 million times removed
Mountain bluebird 320 million years ago 175 millionth cousin, 50 million times removed
Pterosaur 320 million years ago 175 millionth cousin, 110 million times removed
Saltwater crocodile 320 million years ago 175 millionth cousin, 105 million times removed
Western skink 320 million years ago 175 millionth cousin, 50 million times removed
Caecilian 350 million years ago 180 millionth cousin, 90 million times removed
Caecilian 350 million years ago 180 millionth cousin, 90 million times removed
Northern two-lined salamander 350 million years ago 180 millionth cousin, 110 million times removed
Strawberry poison-dart frog 350 million years ago 180 millionth cousin, 80 million times removed
Australian lungfish 415 million years ago 185 millionth cousin, 150 million times removed
West Indian Ocean coelacanth 425 million years ago 190 millionth cousin, 100 million times removed
West Indian Ocean coelacanth 425 million years ago 190 millionth cousin, 100 million times removed
Atlantic cod 440 million years ago 195 millionth cousin, 75 million times removed
Atlantic sturgeon 440 million years ago 195 millionth cousin, 115 million times removed
Indian pike conger 440 million years ago 195 millionth cousin, 115 million times removed
Labrador herring 440 million years ago 195 millionth cousin, 65 million times removed
Shortnose gar 440 million years ago 195 millionth cousin, 90 million times removed
Sockeye salmon 440 million years ago 195 millionth cousin, 75 million times removed
Yellow perch 440 million years ago 195 millionth cousin, 50 million times removed
Atlantic blacktip shark 460 million years ago 200 millionth cousin, 150 million times removed
Armored fish - extinct 530 million years ago 230 millionth cousin, 170 million times removed
Pacific hagfish 530 million years ago 230 millionth cousin, 55 million times removed
Lancelet 560 million years ago 270 millionth cousin, 290 million times removed
Lancelet 560 million years ago 270 millionth cousin, 290 million times removed
Purple sea urchin 570 million years ago 280 millionth cousin, 65 million times removed
Common starfish 570 million years ago 280 millionth cousin, 65 million times removed
Moss animal 590 million years ago 300 millionth cousin, 290 million times removed
Common cockle 590 million years ago 300 millionth cousin, 115 million times removed
Chinese red-headed centipede 590 million years ago 300 millionth cousin, 70 million times removed
Flower fly 590 million years ago 300 millionth cousin, 2.7 billion times removed
Body louse 590 million years ago 300 millionth cousin, 2.7 billion times removed
Ammonite - extinct 590 million years ago 300 millionth cousin, 185 million times removed
Sea scorpion - extinct 590 million years ago 300 millionth cousin, 105 million times removed
Trilobite - extinct 590 million years ago 300 millionth cousin, 85 million times removed
Common redbolt 590 million years ago 300 millionth cousin, 110 million times removed
Mangrove horseshoe crab 590 million years ago 300 millionth cousin, 150 million times removed
Lamp shell 590 million years ago 300 millionth cousin, 120 million times removed
Jumping spider 590 million years ago 300 millionth cousin, 120 million times removed
Lubber grasshopper 590 million years ago 300 millionth cousin, 220 million times removed
Red worm 590 million years ago 300 millionth cousin, 290 million times removed
Burgundy snail 590 million years ago 300 millionth cousin, 30 million times removed
White-spotted octopus 590 million years ago 300 millionth cousin, 100 million times removed
Stag beetle 590 million years ago 300 millionth cousin, 140 million times removed
Ulysses swallowtail butterfly 590 million years ago 300 millionth cousin, 110 million times removed
Western honey bee 590 million years ago 300 millionth cousin, 145 million times removed
Blue crab 590 million years ago 300 millionth cousin, 100 million times removed
Ruby darter dragonfly 590 million years ago 300 millionth cousin, 110 million times removed
Pillar coral 700 million years ago 410 millionth cousin, 110 million times removed
Comb jelly 750 million years ago 460 millionth cousin, 4.5 billion times removed
Glass sponge 800 million years ago 510 millionth cousin, 110 million times removed
King bolete mushroom 1 billion years ago 700 millionth cousin, 100 million times removed
Maidenhair tree 1.35 billion years ago 1.2 billionth cousin, 150 million times removed
Club moss 1.35 billion years ago 1.2 billionth cousin, 50 million times removed
Northern giant horsetail 1.35 billion years ago 1.2 billionth cousin, 100 million times removed
Sago palm cycad 1.35 billion years ago 1.2 billionth cousin, 200 million times removed
Green algae 1.35 billion years ago 1.2 billionth cousin, 150 million times removed
Pincushion moss 1.35 billion years ago 1.2 billionth cousin, 150 million times removed
Green algae 1.35 billion years ago 1.2 billionth cousin, 150 million times removed
Crown fern 1.35 billion years ago 1.2 billionth cousin, 100 million times removed
French rose 1.35 billion years ago 1.2 billionth cousin, 100 million times removed
E. coli (Bacteria) 2.5 billion years ago 500 billionth cousin, 1.5 trillion times removed
Sulfolobus (Archaea) 2.5 billion years ago 500 billionth cousin, 1.35 trillion times removed

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