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Visualising very large phylogenetic trees in three dimensional hyperbolic space

Timothy Hughes1*, Young Hyun2 and David A Liberles1

Author Affiliations

1 Computational Biology Unit Bergen Centre for Computational Science University of Bergen 5020 Bergen Norway

2 Cooperative Association for Internet Data Analysis SDSC University of California – San Diego MC0505 9500 Gilman Drive La Jolla, CA 92093 USA

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BMC Bioinformatics 2004, 5:48  doi:10.1186/1471-2105-5-48

Published: 29 April 2004



Common existing phylogenetic tree visualisation tools are not able to display readable trees with more than a few thousand nodes. These existing methodologies are based in two dimensional space.


We introduce the idea of visualising phylogenetic trees in three dimensional hyperbolic space with the Walrus graph visualisation tool and have developed a conversion tool that enables the conversion of standard phylogenetic tree formats to Walrus' format. With Walrus, it becomes possible to visualise and navigate phylogenetic trees with more than 100,000 nodes.


Walrus enables desktop visualisation of very large phylogenetic trees in 3 dimensional hyperbolic space. This application is potentially useful for visualisation of the tree of life and for functional genomics derivatives, like The Adaptive Evolution Database (TAED).