The branch of biology that deals with naming, classifying, and grouping organisms is
. Historically, taxonomic procedures were quite straightforward and
involved little more than naming new species and grouping organisms according to shared
morphological characteristics. However, modern
is a considerably more complex
science due to the recognition that organisms often have similar morphological characteristics
because they share common ancestry. A number of different approaches to taxonomy have been
developed over the years, but most current taxonomic debates center on how closely taxonomy
should reflect an organism’s
(=evolutionary) relationships. (A
hypothesis of evolutionary relationships).
For example, taxonomists using traditional
methods of taxonomic classification
(based on overall morphological similarity without regard to evolutionary history) typically
considered chimpanzees (genus
), gorillas (genus
), and orangutans (genus
be morphologically more similar to one another than any of them are to humans (genus
As a result, great apes have historically been placed in a separate family (Pongidae) from
humans (Hominidae). However,
techniques for phylogenetic reconstruction (which rely
solely on evolutionary novelties, or
to generate phylogenies) clearly demonstrate
that chimpanzees are more closely related to humans than other great apes. Accordingly, many
modern taxonomists recognize the common ancestry of
by placing both genera in
the same family (Hominidae).
***Note: By convention, all Latin species names are either underlined or italicized.
The genus name is always capitalized, the species name is not.
For higher taxonomic levels, the Latin form is capitalized and the English form is not.
e.g., family Hominidae, the hominid family
TAXONOMY AND PHYLOGENY
The 18th Century Swedish naturalist Carolus Linnaeus (sometimes called the “father of
taxonomy”) created a system for classifying organisms that is still largely in use today. The
Linnaean system of classification places all organisms into a hierarchical framework of nested
groups. The most inclusive unit within in the Linnaean system (i.e., the “highest” taxonomic
level) is the
. Successively less inclusive groups (i.e., “lower” taxonomic levels)
. More recently, other taxonomic levels
family) have been added to the Linnaean scheme. Each of these various levels in
the Linnaean taxonomic hierarchy is referred to as a