The Entire History of Evolution (c. 1931) (warning: 28.1MB image)

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The ‘Histomaps’ were a series of pictorial maps made by John B. Sparks in 1931, and published by Rand McNally in 1942. Three were produced, with two easily traceable on the web: The Histomap, a map about the birth and death of civilizations throughout recorded history, and the Histomap of Evolution seen here. If you’re, like me, interested in the latter Histomap, click here for a place where you can purchase a print, or click here for the original archived version of the map. The original description of this particular ‘map’ was:

The Histomap of Evolution: earth, life and mankind for ten thousand million years. Arranged by John B. Sparks. Copyright, 1932, by John Sparks, 1942 edition. Printed and distributed in U.S.A. by Rand McNally & co. HZ 011. (Cover title) From the flaming planet to modern man: The Histomap of Evolution : Ten thousand million years of evolution on single page.

The map’s different streams of colors denote lines of descent, while the relative widths of the colors at any given period of time are supposed to evoke a sense of dominance. Leaving aside the debate of how non-dominant the map seems to think bacteria are (or the fact that their dominance seems to change due to artistic liberty), the map is still a pretty thing to look at and it gives us pretty interesting insight into taxonomy of the early 20th century. Keep in mind that this chart was designed before the discovery of viruses and viroids became popular knowledge (viruses started to be imaged and identified en masse in 1931 but their classification dates back to 1898 – viroids were discovered in 1971)! With our knowledge today, and with the evolutionary diversity of these species, I’d probably reclassify beetles (Coleoptera) or Insecta in general to have a more pronounced domination. The last half of the chart describes the popular understanding of why humans in different geographical regions differ in appearance in context of important historical events. To find out more about what we know today about global biodiversity in similarly interesting maps (but super-imposed on a globe), I recommend you click here!

I installed a new image-viewer to my blog solely to better show-case this wonderful thing. The image was re-sized by me directly from the original 500mb archive map (the popular version floating around the web seems to have picked up some interesting jpeg artifacts and color inaccuracies). To get all you need out of the map you just need to use your mouse. Hovering over any part of the image brings up a small 400x400px zoomed box. Scrolling up or down when you’re hovering on the image will change the size of the zoomed box you have available to you. Scrolling elsewhere will behave normally.

The image in the lead image come from Wolfgang Fuhrmannek’s discovery of a Pholidocercus hassiacus fossil at the Hessisches Landesmuseum Darmstadt.

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