Topo-phylogeny is an alternative approach to displaying phylogenetic relationships. It visualizes each node of a tree as a point on a two-dimensional map, with the placement, surrounding color and distance from other nodes determined by its attraction to parent and sister nodes, branch length, and hierarchical level. Topographic contour shapes indicate which level related nodes are connected at. Gaps between clusters indicate clades from a different lineage.

The paper was published in PLOS ONE:

Jamie Waese, Nicholas J. Provart, David S. Guttman. Topo-phylogeny: Visualizing evolutionary relationships on a topographic landscape. PLOS ONE. Published: May 1, 2017

Category Research, Data Visualization

Date May 2017

Topo-phylogeny: A more intuitive way to visualize hierarchical structures?

An early mockup using nested HTML divs.

A hand-drawn mockup of a topographical representation of a phylogenetic tree.

Screen capture of the final Topo-phylogeny tool. Each node on the Topo-phylogeny map is linked to the equivalent node in the phylogenetic tree beside it. The nodes marked in red represent the same gene.

Each node consists of a stack of circles, with the top circle in the stack containing the label and each circle below it sized and coloured according to its distance from the root and the cumulative branch length.

This visualization paradigm is similar to Max Fürbringer's "Phylogenetic Tree of Birds" diagram, which shows groups of related items on slices of a hierarchical tree. This was published in 1888 in Untersuchungen zur Morphologie und Systematik der Vögel. This image was published in Isabel Meirelles' Design for Information: An Introduction to the Histories, Theories, and Best Practices Behind Effective Information Visualizations . The digital scan was accessed from The Genealogical World of Phylogenetic Networks blog.