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Assignment - 12. Taxonomy: Classification and Naming
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12. Taxonomy: Classification and Naming

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Life science classifications and systems of classification vary greatly depending on interpretations. You may find other systems in reference or science books. This variation
does not mean one is right or better than another system. The classification system discussed in this lesson is still a work in progress, and this work has only just begun,
particularly with bacterial diversity that continues to expand. In this lesson, you'll review the most recent taxonomic system accepted by most scientists. You'll also become
familiar with the naming system, called binomial nomenclature, used in this classification system.


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Distinguish among modern taxonomic levels of classification.
Identify the characteristics of a species.
Understand common names are not specific.
Practice using the binomial nomenclature system for common organisms.

also known as archaebacteria; prokaryotic organisms with different structures than bacteria; believed to be the most
primitive organisms, capable of inhabiting extreme environments
binomial nomenclature the two-name system of naming living things used in classification
eubacteria prokaryotic organisms including bacteria and cyanobacteria
eukaryote a cell that has a membrane-bound nucleus and/or organelles as its major characteristic
the form or appearance of an organism; the collection of physical characteristics and the structure which make up an
organism; a basis for species definition
prokaryote a cell whose nucleus is not bound by a membrane
the separation of populations of organisms by some type of barrier to produce variations of species; no reproduction or
reproductive isolation
exchange of genes occurs between the separated groups; a basis for species definition
Vocab Arcade

The Levels of Classification

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00:07 -02:36 02:44

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There used to be only five kingdoms—Animalia, Plantae, Fungi, Protista, and Monera. During the late 1970s, American microbiologist Carl Woese discovered significant
DNA differences between organisms within the Monera kingdom. Today, most scientists divide the Monera kingdom into Eubacteria and Archae.

Lower Levels of Classification

Show Transcript

What is a 02:38
00:00 02:38 Species?

The term species, the basic rank of the taxa, is difficult to define precisely and therefore is not always agreed upon by all scientists. Two meanings of species are relevant to
scientists today. One has to do with reproductive isolation, which means that organisms are of the same species if they can interbreed and reproduce for more than one
generation. If they cannot produce young, they belong to different species and are isolated from each other in classification. The second meaning of species has to do with
morphology, or the way a plant or animal looks or grows. Classification could depend on anything from the shape of leaves or wings to the color of flowers or fur. Organisms
in the same species share many similarities in morphology. Therefore, when determining the taxon based upon morphology, a scientist is relying on genetic similarities.

Variations may occur within a species. These smaller groupings within a species are called varieties, races, breeds, or subspecies. Varieties of some species may look
different in some way but are capable of interbreeding to produce offspring that are also capable of producing offspring. This is evident in observing the many varieties of
dogs. Varieties are characterized by external physical features such as size, color, and general shape.

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What's in a Name?

We have always tried to organize and classify life forms around names. The local names given to organisms are often subjective, having been chosen upon the basis of
emotion or individual preferences. What is popular or common changes with different people and languages, so the name may be meaningless in some places. Common
names abound (e.g., the mallard duck has around thirty common names).

To add to the confusion, foreign names may be misleading. When the same popular name is not in use from one country to another, the name may be lost or complicated.
The names for this well-known bird of the United States will provide a good illustration:

United States: English sparrow

England: House sparrow
France: Moineau domestique
Spain: Gorrion
Portugal: Pardal
Italy: Passera oltramontana
Germany: Haussperling
Holland: Musch
Denmark and Norway: Graaspurv
Sweden: Hussparf

A more definite system of rules for naming is needed.

Binomial nomenclature

A system of rules for naming does exist. That system is binomial nomenclature, or two-name calling, and was developed by Carolus Linnaeus. Instead of depending on
names that can be understood only locally, this system uses names that can be understood universally. Binomial nomenclature uses Latin words, which, generally speaking,
are more universally accepted than those of any other language.

In addition to setting standards for naming in a more universally-understood manner, binomial nomenclature uses names that tell us something about the thing named, usually
describing appearance or distribution of the organism. For example, Tyrannosaurus rex means "tyrant-lizard king," a very fitting description. Sometimes the discoverer of a
species is included in the scientific name. The two parts that make up the binomial name indicate genus and species. The first name of the pair is the genus name; it is always
capitalized. A genus is a group of organisms that share major features or characteristics. The second is the species name; it is in lower case. The species name identifies one
particular organism within the group or genus. Both names are always italicized (also indicated by underlining).

Let's return to the example of the English sparrow. To make the name more widely understood, Linnaeus gave the bird the Latin name Passer domesticus. This name
indicates the sparrow's scientific classification. Passer comes from the word for sparrow and is the generic name; domesticus means around the house and names the species.
Notice also that Passer functions as a noun and domesticus functions as an adjective.

Naming clues

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Along with the information that classification gives, we should take note of the Latin clue endings for taxa. For plants, -ophyta is a division ending; -ae, or -eae is a class
ending; -ales is an order ending; and -aceae is the usual family ending. Notice that the species name is italicized (or underlined) and that the species name also includes the
genus name.

Taxa         Classification
Organisms that usually have chlorophyll and cell walls. These organisms usually make their own food through the process of photosynthesis.
Kingdom Plantae

Flowering plants. The seeds of these plants are enclosed or covered by the ovary of the flower. These plants are also referred to under the
Division Magnoliophyta Phylum: Angeiospermae.

Also referred to as of the Class: Monocotyledons, or monocots. The embryo plant inside the seed has one cotyledon or seed leaf for stored food.
Class Liliopsida Flower pairs are usually in threes. The conducting tissues are scattered in bundles through the stem. Leaves usually have veins parallel.

Plants which have wind or self-pollinating flowers bearing a single ovule. Flowers are arranged as spikes.
Order Cyperales

The grass family has only monocots with hollow stems and greenish flowers with flower parts like petal missing. The fruit is a grain or caryopsis.
Family Poaceae

Large grasses with separate pollen and seed flower clusters (the tassel and the ear). The grain is enclosed by leafy husks.
Genus Zea

Species Mays Sweet Corn

Word endings for animal taxa are different from those for plant taxa. The -a or-ata endings are used for phylum; -a or -ea for class; -a, -ea, or -i for order; and -ae for family.
Note the wide variation of endings. Unless the classification word is used with the taxon, we may have difficulty determining the rank of classification being discussed. Only
the taxa of family and species can be identified by the unique ending of -ae, or the binomial requirement for the naming of the species.

Taxa           Classification    
Organisms that are dependent on other animals or plants for food. Lack cell walls. Usually capable of locomotion or movement.
Kingdom Animalia

Develop notochord and later vertebrae for backbone body support. Spinal cord or one nerve cord down back.
Phylum Chordata

Organisms covered with soft, moist, glandular skin; no scales; eggs with gelatinous covering; three-chambered heart. Young usually aquatic
Class Amphibia breathing through gills; adults living on land breathing through lungs.

Head and body are fused with no obvious neck, no tail. Front legs short, hind legs long for leaping; webs between toes. Metamorphosis
Order Salientia obvious from tadpole to adult.

True frogs. Smooth skin, narrow waist, long legs; toes with webs, fingers separate. Teeth in upper jaw. Eggs in tapioca-like masses.
Family Ranidae

Fingers and toes without end discs. Some with, others without, lateral ridges. Edible frog legs.
Genus Rana

Leopard Frog Rana [frog, Latin]; pipiens [frog, Surinam]

Species Rana pipiens

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Let's Review!
In this lesson you have learned:

To distinguish among modern taxonomical levels of classification,

To identify the characteristics of species,
To understand common names are not specific; and,
To practice using the binomial nomenclature system for common organisms.

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Vocab Arcade

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Match the following.

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also known as archaebacteria; prokaryotic organisms with different structures
1. than bacteria; believed to be the most primitive organisms, capable of inhabiting prokaryote
extreme environments
2. the two-name system of naming living things used in classification eukaryote
3. prokaryotic organisms including bacteria and cyanobacteria archaea
a cell that has a membrane-bound nucleus and/or organelles as its major
4. reproductive isolation
the form or appearance of an organism; the collection of physical characteristics
5. binomial nomenclature
and the structure which make up an organism; a basis for species definition
6. a cell whose nucleus is not bound by a membrane eubacteria
the separation of populations of organisms by some type of barrier to produce
7. variations of species; no reproduction or exchange of genes occurs between the morphology
separated groups; a basis for species definition
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