The Darwin Tree of Life

Reading the genomes of all life: a new platform for understanding our biodiversity.

The Darwin Tree of Life project aims to sequence the genomes of all 70,000 species of eukaryotic organisms in Britain and Ireland. It is a collaboration between biodiversity, genomics and analysis partners that hopes to transform the way we do biology, conservation and biotechnology.


What we do

We use genomic data to understand the evolution of the diversity of life, to explore the biology of organisms and ecosystems, to aid conservation efforts and to provide new tools for medicine and biotechnology. The Darwin Tree of Life Project is one of several initiatives across the globe working towards the ultimate goal of sequencing all complex life on Earth, in a venture known as the Earth BioGenome Project. We are focussing on the organisms that live in and around Britain and Ireland because they constitute what is probably the best known and most deeply studied biota in the world, explored during centuries of observation and research.

Our Approach

All life is linked through the common thread of the DNA sequence of their genomes. The Darwin Tree of Life project will carefully collect representatives of each species, use advanced DNA sequencing technologies to generate high quality genome sequences, and cutting edge computational tools to understand how the DNA sequence translates into the diversity of life. We will sequence animals, plants, fungi and protists, and release the data openly for all to use.

In our first, two-year phase we will sequence the genomes of 2000 species to build the skills needed to complete our task, to generate reference genomes for about one third of the families of organisms present in Britain and Ireland, and to prove the utility of these genomes for research and applied goals.

Pine buds

Sequencing life on earth

“We are really excited to get started on this great scientific adventure of sequencing life on Earth. We have committed to ensuring that the genomes we sequence, assemble and release are made openly available for those working in biology, conservation and biotechnology. We look forward to sharing the first fruits of the UK’s Darwin Tree of Life very soon.” 

Professor Mark Blaxter, Programme Lead for the Tree of Life programme at the Wellcome Sanger Institute

I’m A Scientist Get Me Out Of Here!

If you’re an A-Level (or equivalent) class and would like to talk all things genomics with our staff and researchers, DToL is now on the I’m A Scientist platform. We host weekly chat sessions at 1pm on Mondays and 4pm on Wednesdays which are open to anyone, and teachers can also arrange private sessions for their groups.

Check out our teams at


Contact us

If you would like to suggest a species for us to prioritise, please see the Suggest a Species! page.

To contact us about any aspect of the Darwin Tree of Life programme please use one of the following methods.

The laboratory team at the Wellcome Sanger Institute have now returned to site and sequencing for the Darwin Tree of Life resumed in May 2020 following the COVID-19 lockdown. However the administrative team are still working remotely, and will be able to respond to enquiries by email only at present (

Email :

Address :

Darwin Tree of Life
Wellcome Sanger Institute
Wellcome Genome Campus
CB10 1SA

Darwin Tree of Life Collaborators and Partners

See the Wellcome Sanger Institute press release

Sanger Institute News