• Laurie L.

Taxonomy and Naming Things

Updated: Dec 15, 2019

Taxonomy is the scientific way of categorizing things. In the sciences, it's used to place more closely related species together. This is different from PHYLOGENY which categorizes how closely related different species are to each other by using the taxonomic method. For example, phylogeny would be the bag of pencils you have and taxonomy is when you organize them by size and color. For more information about how evolution happens, check out this LINK.

The words "Phylogenetic Tree of Life" is basically referring to the common ancestry in organisms, narrowing them down according to what they have in common.

Let's focus on the Eukarya group as an example. All the organisms in the Eukarya are more closely related to each other than with another group. From that group, you have a lot to choose from, but let's choose Animalia.

You can see that in the group Animalia, there are a lot of different animals. If you want to focus on the ancestry or taxonomy of the grizzly bear, the group narrows down more and more until you reach it. The genus and species names what identifies the grizzly bear no matter what language you speak.

Binomial nomenclature

The scientific name or binomial nomenclature of the grizzly bear is Ursus horribilis. The species and genus are always italicized with the genus being capitalized and the species name is uncapitalized. There are more than one kind of bear with the genus Ursus and any organism, related or not, can have the species name horribilis. To avoid confusion, scientists keep the genus and species names together.

Portrait of Carl Linnaeus

It was first used by Carl Linnaeus who was a botanist (studied plants). How you categorize an organism can make a taxonomic chart look different than another. If you create a chart that shows all green things, it will look very different than if you show only plants. Scientists are consistent so they are now using DNA similarities in organisms to create the taxonomic chart because things can look alike, but still be very different genetically.

An organism keeps the original scientific name given to them by whoever named them first. No two organisms can ever have the same scientific name and if they do, the new one has to change.

Taxonomy has changed a lot over the years but DNA sequencing has changed the name of the game for years to come. Carl Linnaeus has created a system of naming things that creates a universal way to identify species for scientists. Together these systems have paved the way for finding the order of life in the chaos.


Biology: Concepts & Connections 9th Edition by Campbell 2017

Lecture Notes: Dr. Hannah Marsh, Human PreHistory, Fall 2014 & Dr. Daryl Goad, Fall 2014

Lecture Notes: Dr. Stephen Wilson, General Ecology, Spring 2015

#evolution #science #scienceducation #sciencecommunication #scicomm #scienceblog #blog #taxonomy #science #Linnaeus #familytree #bears #treeoflife #undergraduateresearch

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