Classification Of Living Things: From an early age, we all heard the difference between plants and animals, and it seemingly wasn’t until a few years later when we read that there are different types of animals and plants, even though they share some similarities, they are completely different.
Centuries ago, living things were classified as either plants or animals. Now, the classification of living things benefits us to gain a better understanding of the world we live in, our connection to living things, and understanding Biology better overall. Let’s take a nearer look at the classification, a little bit of its past, and some tips for learning how to use it when examining a living organism.
The Classification Of Living Things
You might already know a little about the classification of living things, which is also mentioned as taxonomy. Many students study the basics of taxonomy in elementary school, but except you spend a lot of time concentrating on Biology, the details may have become a bit blurred over the years.
Classification of all living things got its origin with Swedish Botanist, Carl Linnaeus. Due to his interest in plants and animals, his first classification guide, Systema Naturae, was announced in 1735.
Linnaeus, who is often studied to be the “Father of Taxonomy,” and his classification system is yet in use today. While the classification system continues to grow, Linnaeus will always settle an integral part of how we name, rank, and classify plants and animals.
The classification system lights out by ordering living organisms into groups based on basic and shared components (such as a plant or animal). Then each group is split down further into more specific classifications, it might be important to think of a classification system like a family tree.
Next, we’ll take a more solid look at the eight levels of the taxonomy, depending on your source, you may see seven levels discussed.
The first or highest level of the classification system is the domain. A domain has the most number of individuals in the group since it’s the largest level. The domain level serves to differentiate between cell types. Currently, there are three types of domains, which include:
Kingdoms are levels that are divided down from the domains. There are six kingdoms that involve Eubacteria, Archaebacteria, Plantae, Animalia, Fungi, and Protista. While kingdoms are a little more specific, it should still be relatively easy to characterize a living organism based on the kingdom.
The Plantae Kingdom is broken down even further to include divisions. The following divisions include:
- Bryophyta: mosses, liverworts, and hornworts
- Psilotophyta: whisk ferns
- Lycophyta: club mosses and quillworts
- Sphenophyta: horsetails
- Polypodiophyta: ferns
- Coniferophyta: pines, spruces, redwoods
- Ginkgophyta: ginkgoes
- Cycadophyta: cycads
- Gnetophyta: gnetophytes
- Magnoliophyta: flowering plants
Getting the kingdoms can be a little wily, and if you don’t get the kingdoms right from the start, you may have a difficult time distinguishing something rightly.
The phylum is the following level in the classification system and is used to group living organisms concurrently based on some common characteristics. A good example to consider is when you sort your washing by items of clothes. Your socks aren’t all identical, you most likely group them together and put them in the same dresser drawer.
Consider the animal kingdom, there is a phylum group named “chordates,” and it belongs to all animals with a spinal column. As humans, we are also part of the chordate phylum. Like the Plantae Kingdom, phyla is split down into divisions:
- Porifera: sponges
- Coelenterata: jellyfish, hydras, and corals
- Platyhelminthes: flatworms
- Nematoda: roundworms
- Annelida: segmented worms
- Arthropoda: arthropods like insects
- Mollusca: mollusks like clams
- Echinodermata: sea urchins
- Chordata: chordates
The class level is another way to group together organisms that are similar, but it grows even more specific than phylum. There are more than 100 classes, but some of the more popular ones that you’ll likely use on a usual basis in Biology class include vertebrates, invertebrates, dicots, or monocots.
As you might guess, the order is just a different way to break down the class of plants and animals. Think of it as “refining your search.” Some orders incorporate carnivores, primates, rodents, Fagales, and Pinales.
The next level in the classification of living organisms is characterized much like the group of people that we call family. We are all separate, but we share enough connections that we belong in the same family; the same applies to all living things.
The genus is the initial part of a living thing’s scientific name, also known as binomial nomenclature. Let’s look at lions and tigers, for example, the scientific name for a lion is Panthera leo, and the tiger is Panthera tigris; Panthera is the genus.
The species is the last and most specific level of the classification system. The best way to describe a species is a group of organisms that are best satisfied for breeding healthy offspring, which can also proceed to reproduce.
Some Examples of Classification
Organizing living things takes a lot of practice, and while it may take you a long time to familiarize yourself with the scientific names in a domain or phylum, it’s enough to learn and remember the levels of classification as soon as you can. Skipping about the phylum or order can make the distribution process even more difficult.
Many people use a mnemotechnic device to remember the order of the levels of the taxonomy. Some people use “Dear King Phillip Came Over For Good Soup,” but you can come up with whatever and work best for you.
Let’s take a look at a few in-depth examples. We’ll begin out by classifying humans.
Classification of Humans
The Domain is Eukarya because we have a nucleus and organelles. The Kingdom is Animalia because we ingest food, are multicellular, and have no cell surfaces. The Phylum is Chordata because we have spinal cords.
The Class is Mammalia because we nurse our offspring and the Order is Primates due to our higher level of skill. The Family is Hominidae because we are bipedal (walk upright). The Genus is Homo for Human, and the Species is H. sapiens, which suggests modern humans.
The event is Homo Sapiens, which as we all know explains to today’s human beings.
Classification of a Fruit Fly
Everyone will admit that fruit flies can be a nuisance, but they can be an interesting organism to study. Here’s how we can arrange a fruit fly.
The Domain is Eukarya because it has a nucleus and organelles. The Kingdom is Animalia because it ingests food, is multicellular, and has no cell wall. The Phylum is Arthropoda due to the tough exoskeleton, joined legs, and a segmented body. The Class is Insecta because it is terrestrial, has six legs, and antennae. The Order is Diptera due to having two-wings.
The Family is Drosophilidae, the Genus is Drosophila, Species is D. melanogaster; also known as the common fruit fly. As you looked at the different levels of classification, can you see where we’re related to the annoying and small insect?
Classification of a Maple Tree
We can get syrup from a maple tree, and it has stunning foliage in the fall, but you probably haven’t thought much beyond that. Here’s the classification of a red maple tree.
The Domain is Eukarya because it has a nucleus and organelles and the Kingdom is Plantae since it makes its own food and has a multicellular cell wall. Immediately, we can see that maple is nothing like a human.
The Phylum is Tracheophyta due to the tissue-level organization, and the Class is Angiospermae because it flowers. The Order is Sapindales because it produces sap and the Family is Aceraceae. The Genus is Acer, the Species is A. rubrum, and we end up with red maple.
Classification of a Dandelion
People either love or hate dandelions but like other organisms, they are a living thing, and they have a complex level of classification. Let’s see if you can guess the Domain, Kingdom, and Phylum. Did you guess Eukarya, Plantae, and Angiosperms? Then, you’re right.
The Class is Magnoliopsida, the Order is Asterales, Family is Asteraceae, the Genus is Taraxacum, and the Species is T. officinale; your result is the dandelion.
The more time you spend classifying living things, the easier it becomes, and even in these quick examples, you probably started to see some similarities.