Taxonomy

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What is TAXONOMY?

Taxonomy is a branch of science, which has the purpose of attempting to organize the many living (and extinct or previously living things whose present form may differ from a former form) things, on Earth, into a logical system of classification and the names or nomenclature for such things.

It is presently pretty well accepted that the Earth was formed 4.6 billions years ago AND that life on this planet started at least 3.5 billion years ago.

All of the organisms which have ever lived on the Earth are known collectively as the Earth's biota. All of the present life on the Earth of living organisms, are collectively the Earth's present biosphere.

The variety within the biosphere is staggering. To organize life on Earth in a meaningful manner is also staggering.(Curator's Note: On August 9, 2003, I down loaded from the internet 121 pages, upon which on each page there were between 24 to 29 species listed per page, for a total of something like 3,270 species, of which this is only a small portion of the known named species and a huge number of species are not yet identified and named and/or are unknown).

Therefore, undertaking the organization and naming of living things is tremendously complicated matter. To make matters even more formidable, the generally accepted Worldwide rule is "priority", which means that the first name given to a living thing is the official name and all others are synonyms. However, it is not that simple, as many species may have the same name and not be even closely related. You must have the Genus and Species names together, as the species of one Genus may be the same as the species name of another Genus and therefore no conflict in the name of the living thing, although both have the same species name.

Other conflicts arise when a living thing which is thought to be in one Genus or higher level actually belongs in another and hence its entire name changes and then the species name may conflict with another species already in the new Genus or higher level of naming.

Sometimes the "priority" name may be relatively little used and the later name become well-known, making reverting to the "priority" name confusing, although proper. An example was when the picture of the well known dinosaur, the "Brontosaurus" came out by the U.S. Post Office with the actually correct "priority" name of Apatosaurus. People were up in arms over the U.S. Post Office's mistake in the name of the dinosaur, when actually there were correct, however, they didn't use the popular name.

Recently a new form of division of living things has been brought out, which refers to "clads" or the cladistic relationship of living things. The use of DNA has been useful in recent years in comparing living things to see who is related to whom.

For use in organizing living things, Scientists have come up with some rules and some steps.

There are usually considered to be five Kingdoms of living things, which are:

  1. Animalia (Animals)
  2. Fungi (Fungus)
  3. Monera (Archea and Bacteria)
  4. Plantae (Plants)
  5. Protista (Animal-like, Plant-like, & Fungus-like)

Looking now to the traditional classifications of living and fossils (basically things which are now old, but were alive, died and were preserved by various means until found), here is the breakdown in a chart (using a human as an example):

#1 Most general;
#7 Least specific
Kingdom Animalia
#2
#6
Phylum Chordata
#3
#5
Class Mammalia
#4
#4
Order Primate
#5
#3
Family Hominidae
#6
#2
Genus Homo
#7 Least general;
#1 Most specific
Species Sapiens

We can do the same thing with a bacteria, a plant, or any other thing with a cell.

Virus are a problematical group as technically they are not a living thing and therefore hard to define, although they can cause untold misery to living thing. Since viruses have no cells, they are apparently bits of DNA or RNA which have somehow are loose roaming bits of these items which interact with proteins and living cells. Viruses do not grow and they feed only if we alter our usually understood definition of feeding. Basically they exist only because they can replicate (i.e. make more of themselves) but they do not do so by any usual manner of living things, either by sexual or asexual means.

The manner in which viruses replicate and the materials which they use to do so are what causes so much suffering by living things. The virus use the bits of genetic material which they consist of to bind with certain proteins (chemicals bound together in certain specific formulae), then they invade or reinvade a living cell and subvert the living cell into making more copies of the virus. We could look at this like the Trojan Horse of Troy.

Virus don't intend to be deadly, because to do so doesn't work to their advantage if they also die. However, over long periods of time, apparently viruses, like other pathogens work out with the host a living arrangement whereby the host doesn't suffer too much, if at all, and doesn't die, but the virus gets the benefits it needs. It is doubtful that any virus ever benefits the host in a true symbiotic relationship as some living things do (think coral). However, a new arrangement is probably the most serious, as when a virus jumps species to another and thereby has not had time to work on the relationship to benefit the virus without killing the host. We can certainly consider AIDS, Ebola and other recently discovered diseases which are extremely virulent and NEW to large segments of the population. Also mobility of the human species gets these viruses around into new environments, where there is no indigenous immunity.

For more information on this area, go to the page on PHYLUMS


We will add some other things later, as time is up for working on this page for the present.
Enjoy and more will be added later.