Taxonomy is a classification system used in biology. Is it a way for scientists to identify and name all of the living organisms that live on our planet.
Biologists use taxonomy to group organisms displaying similar characteristics together and study things like, their relationships, chemical compositions, breeding habits, and behaviors.
The discovery of the taxonomy classification system has been attributed to Carl von Linne, (more commonly known as Carolus Linnaeus, due to the European Latinization of names during the 1700’s) who was a Swedish botanist. In 1735, Linnaeus worked on a way to classify related groups of organisms, from the smallest to the largest, much like the way the human class system functioned during that time period. Though modern taxonomy classification is based on Linnaeus’ system, Aristotle was actually the first to develop a classification system back in 300 B.C.
Taxonomy utilizes the binomial system of nomenclature. This simply means that every specific type of organism is given two Latin names for identification purposes. These names are dependant upon the genus and species the organism falls into and are sort of like a human’s first and last name. The genus name is always capitalized, while the species name remains in lower-case.
Taxonomy is also a hierarchically structured system that contains 5 biological kingdoms, from the simplest bacteria up to the more complex members of the animal kingdom.
The 5 main kingdoms, in ascending order are:
* Monera = this is the group that includes bacteria or what scientists call prokaryotic organisms.
* Protista = usually unicellular, eukaryotic organisms but several multicelluar organisms fall into this category, as well.
* Fungi = encompasses mushrooms, molds, rusts, and yeasts. They are eukaryotic and heterotrophic organisms.
* Plantae = members of this group include all flowering plants, mosses, confers, and ferns. They are photosynthetic, multicelluar, and eukaryotic.
* Animalia = is the largest of the kingdoms, including all the animals of the world.
Taxonomy is the “human way” of providing organization and giving names to the multitude of living organisms that co-exist with us on the Earth. It offers scientists an orderly method of classifying and studying specific organisms within a similar group. Much like files in an office cabinet or a computer folder, taxonomy makes life easier to group similar things together, whether alphabetically, by vendors, customers, or as a particular genus and species.
The taxonomy system came under attack after the 1800’s when Darwin introduced his Theory of Evolution. Linneaus’ system did not allow for any changes in the DNA of a particular species once it had been classified. Evolutionists argue that Linneaus formulated the classification system based on Creationist views but Darwin discovered that all living things did not begin from a common ancestor. For example, under the Linnean system, crocodiles were classified with turtles but they actually possess more similarities with birds and, the hippopotamus has been found to be closer to whales than pigs. Evolutionist’s point out the fact that Linneaus did not take into consideration the capability of species to adapt and evolve to their changing environments.
Whether or not the Linnean system of taxonomy survives into the next century without a major overhaul, it still remains a vital tool in humankind’s historical quest to unravel the mysteries of biology.