UPDATE – 9January 2013
I have just added a post about “Cladograms and Evolution” which you may also be interested in. Please click on this link here to go directly to the post.
Click here to go to the Catalogue of Life website
Did you know that all living organisms can be classified according to “trees” or levels or hierarchies? The classification of life is referred to as Taxonomy by Biologists. I trained as a Biologist a long time ago, so I know that creatures (and plants) have scientific names or Species names, consisting of two words – one representing the Genus and the next word representing the specific form of the Species.
Human beings belong to the Species “Homo sapiens”, or to the Genus “Homo” and to the specific term for the Species in question, being “sapiens.” Ancient human beings were called things like “Homo neanderthalensis”, or Neanderthal Man (or Woman). Click here to see an artist’s impression of the Neanderthal family. The Species is the smallest level of scientific classification that a living organism is classified or grouped into.
A “taxon” is any unit used in the science of biological classification (taxonomy) and the term “taxa” is the plural for “taxon”. There are 7 levels of taxa (seven levels of units used in biological classification) as named below in the coloured boxes. Each taxon level (except for the Species taxon level ) is a group that contains at least one other taxon within it as a sub-set. The taxa are sometimes said to be ranked, for example, a Phylum such as Chordata is a higher “rank” than the Class Mammalia simply because it contains more animals / organisms than the Class Mammalia.
A Phylum is a taxon or scientific category of biological classification at a level amongst a seven level hierarchical classification system where it is below the taxon of Kingdom but above the taxon of Class. The specific phylum “Phylum Chordata” is a taxon (taxonomic group) at the Phylum level. Human beings, dolphins and bandicoots share the same taxon of the Class Mammalia, but belong to different Orders (or different taxa at the Order level, for example, dolphins belong to the Order Cetacea, and bandicoots to the Order Preramelemorphia).
See Enchanted Learning – Mammals
The above diagram shows a panther and where the panther gets its scientific name of Panthera Pardus from. The levels or categories of classification follow, from the largest category to the smallest. So we traditionally have four Kingdoms – Animals / Plants / Fungi, and in between – that is the Protista (or single celled animal/plant life forms). Within each Kingdom are several Phyla (and note “Phyla” is plural for Phylum), and so on, with each category including several sub-categories. Note that the Species name always consists of the relevant Genus name beginning with a capital letter, and the “species level” name with a small letter.
Two names or Levels are used to name a Species, rather than just the one name (for example, “Pardus”) because the names chosen at the “species” level are not necessarily unique or exclusive to any particular Genus. For example, Gazella cuvieri is the scientific name for Cuvier’s Gazelle (a mammal) and Dryolimnas cuvieri is the scientific name for the white-throated rail (a bird). The Species level is actually called an “epithet” which means a “specific term for the species.” The species name includes the genus as well as the specific epithet. Scientific names are the same worldwide. This is Linnaeus’ system of Binomial Nomeclature. Binomial means two words and nomenclature refers to naming.