What is PhyloPic?

PhyloPic's database stores reusable silhouette images of organisms. Each image is associated with one or more taxonomic names and indicates roughly what the ancestral member(s) of each taxon looked like.

PhyloPic also stores a phylogenetic taxonomy of all organisms. This means that you can perform phylogenetic searches. For example, if you need an image for a certain taxon, but there is no exact match in the database, you can easily search that taxon's supertaxa, subtaxa, and related taxa for an image that may work as well.

Anyone may submit images to the PhyloPic database via the Submission Page.

Who is behind PhyloPic?

Mike Keesey. If you're interested in collaborating, send an email.

How may I use the images?

Each image is available under a Creative Commons license. Different licenses have different rights:

Remember to check the license of each image. Details are on every image page.

How can I submit images?

Use the Submission Page.

Which tools can I use to create silhouette images?

There are many graphics editors available. Here are a few recommendations:

What are the requirements for submitted images?


The submission process automatically converts all images into PNG files. The original image may be an SVG, PNG, GIF, or JPEG file. SVG is the most preferred format, since it is a vector format, and can thus be used at any size. JPEG is the least preferred format, since JPEG images may have compression artifacts.


The submission process automatically crops silhouette images and creates different size versions of each image. A cropped silhouette does not have a white margin around it. It is preferred that the cropped version of the silhouette be at least 1024 pixels in at least one dimension. But this is not a strict requirement. Images may be submitted at any size over 64 pixels (in at least one dimension). (Note that none of this applies to SVG files, since they have no fixed size.)


Any silhouette of an organism is fine, in any pose, as long as you think it will be useful. Silhouettes must be solid black on solid white. Please try to make sure the taxonomic assignment is accurate.

Which technologies does PhyloPic use?

PhyloPic was built with:

If you are a developer fluent in the appropriate technologies and would like to contribute to PhyloPic, read the installation overview and contact Mike Keesey.

What is the source of the taxonomy?

PhyloPic pulls taxonomic data from uBio, an open archive of taxonomic names and classifications, using uBio's XML Services. As many of uBio's classifications are conflicting, outdated, or incomplete, much of the data in PhyloPic is modified from its basis. This is an ongoing task, which will eventually be opened up to interested contributors.

Image submitters may also add taxonomic names to PhyloPic if they do not exist in uBio.

What does it mean when an image is used to represent an ancestral form?

Let's start with what it does not mean: it does not mean that the depicted organism is the ancestor of the taxon in question. It also does not mean that the depicted organism has "stopped evolving" since the time of the actual ancestor.

It simply means that, purely in terms of the silhouette, the depicted organism works as an approximate model of the hypothesized ancestral form. But it may have evolved in many ways that are not apparent in a silhouette.

Can people build other applications using the PhyloPic database?

Yes. See the PhyloPic API document for details.