Taxonomy is a pretty simple biological concept, but can be rather tricky in practice.
Classifying living things in groups that share similar characteristics is what taxonomy is all about. For example, here’s a group of things you might find on a desk:
Rubber bands, pens, staples, paper clips, pencils
In order to classify these things we can look at the purpose for each item and group them based on that:
Rubber bands, paper clips, and staples are used to secure things to one another. Pens and pencils are for writing.
Now let’s look at what they’re made of:
Staples and paper clips are metal, whereas rubber bands are not. Pens are plastic and pencils are wooden.
So we have just made these groups:
Of course, this is simple taxonomy. It gets way more complex when you’re talking about the billions of species that live or ever have lived on our planet.
Taxonomy trees, such as the one above are excellent visuals for understanding evolution, which I plan on getting into in a soon-upcoming post.
For a real world scenario, let’s look at another tree. This one, of the cat. It was one of the first words you learned to spell, so it should be one of the first trees we look at. :-)
Here I use the classic grouping of Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species, but the image is very long, you’ll have to open it to full size: