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Archive for the category “Taxonomy”

Cladograms & Evolution – We are all related


Brontosaurus painting by Charles Knight

Phylogenetics orPhylogenetic systematics is a discipline and a field of biology that aims to identify and understand the evolutionary relationships among the many different kinds of life forms on earth, both living (extant) and dead (extinct)Cladistics uses an understanding of phylogenetics to look at the “Tree of Life” and uses a type of diagram called a Cladogram to represent branched “evolutionary relationships” or phylogenies.

Phylogenies are lists or diagrams that show the evolutionary paths taken by populations of organisms through many generations and over long periods of time.

Nomenclature is the devising or choosing of names for things, especially within a branch of science. Systematics or Taxonomy is the branch of biology that deals with classification and nomenclature of organisms or life forms.  A binomial (or two word) nomenclature is used to label and identify known species, using a Genus name and a Species name.  Please see    this   post here for in depth information about TAXONOMY.

Classification of Grizzly Bear

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This simple diagram shows Linnaeus’s system of Binomial Nomenclature for the Grizzly Bear, whose two word scientific name is Ursus arctos.
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The Age of the Mammals from 65 million years ago (mya)


65 milion years ago (mya) the Cenozoic Era began in the time-scale of geological units.  Each Era is divided into Periods of time, and each Period of the Cenozoic Era is divided into Epochs of time.   Please click on the link below for a diagram of the Periods and Epochs in the Cenozoic Era, and for important information about the rise of the Mammals.  This link below shows that the last Ice Age ended 10,000 years ago and the time period (epoch) since then is called the Holocene Epoch.  There has been a series of “ice ages” over billions of years, with the “Great Ice Age” occurring during the Pleistocene Epoch of the Cenozoic Era, 1.8 million to 10,000 years ago.


The dinosaurs had become extinct and now it was the Age of the Mammals, arising in the Palaeocene Epoch of the Cenozoic Era, 65 to 55 mya; with the modern line of human beings (from the genus Homo) developing 1.6 mya to 2 mya.  During the Pleistocene Epoch of the Cenozoic Era, there were four completely separate glacial advances in North America.  The advances were separated by long intervals of ice withdrawal, sufficient to permit the previously occupied area covered by ice to be reoccupied by plants and animals.   Glaciation severely affected life on the earth.   Animal and plant life was forced out of vast portions of the land covered by continental ice sheets. Large-scale migrations must have taken place as the ice sheets grew and climatic changes occurred.

Click here to see some wonderful preserved skeletons of some of the “mega-fauna” (large mammals) of the Pleisotcene Epoch (1.8 mya to 10,000 years ago).

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Animal Taxonomy (Animal Trees)

Animal Taxonomy

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.

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