Tree-Thinking Challenge

This challenge includes a number of multiple-choice questions you can use to test yourself on your ability to accurately interpret evolutionary trees. Insofar as real biological examples have been used they are accurate based on current knowledge.

About this course

This course is the interactive implementation of Tree-Thinking Quizzes, developed by David A. Baum, Stacey DeWitt Smith, and Samuel S. Donovan. Below is a quote from the original paper describing motivation for this challenge:

"Phylogenetic trees are the most direct representation of the principle of common ancestry—the very core of evolutionary theory and thus they must find a more prominent place in the general public’s understanding of evolution. As philosopher of science Robert O’Hara stated, “just as beginning students in geography need to be taught how to read maps, so beginning students in biology should be taught how to read trees and to understand what trees communicate.” Among other benefits, as the concept of tree thinking becomes better understood by those in the sciences, we can hope that a wider segment of society will come to appreciate the overwhelming evidence for common ancestry and the scientific rigor of evolutionary biology."

Source: Baum, D. A., Smith, S. D., & Donovan, S. S. (2005). The tree-thinking challenge. Science, 310(5750), 979-980.

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