To help us understand all the many living things on Earth, scientists group them by their similar traits. This is called, Biological Classification. From elephants to algae, all living things (organisms) have a classification tree leading to their species name. The way we classify animals and plants was created by a scientist named Linnaeus.
Biological classification begins with the biggest groups (Domains) and gets smaller and smaller as they are broken down further to an organism's species name. Though this may sound complicated, once you understand how classification works, it will really help you understand how living things are grouped together. The Linnaeus system classifies plants and animals on eight levels, using Latin and Greek words. With the development of genome science, the biological connection between animals is beginning to change and eventually there will be a more accurate classification system. But for now scientists accept the classic Linnaeus system which can be shown in the following way.
There are eight main levels of classification at this time (due to changing classification, this may be updated over time). As of 2008, this is the accepted Biological classification:
For example, the Eastern Chipmunk is classified in the following way:
Domain Eukaryota multiple-celled organism
Kingdom Animalia animal
Phylum Chordata has backbone
Class Mammalia has backbone, nurses young
Order Rodentia has backbone, nurses young, long, sharp front teeth
Family Scuridae has backbone, nurses young, long, sharp front teeth, bushy tail
Genus Tamias has backbone, nurses young, long, sharp front teeth, bushy tail, climbs trees
Species striatus has backbone, nurses young, long, sharp front teeth, bushy tail, climbs trees, stripes
Read about how classification works and discover the group in which your favorite animals are classified, including YOU!
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Amsel, Sheri. "About Classification - An Overview" Exploring Nature Educational Resource ©2005-2020. May 30, 2020
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