Lab2_Reading_ - ANT 301 Intro to Physical Anthropology Fall...

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Fall 2010 LAB 2: PRIMATE TAXONOMY The branch of biology that deals with naming, classifying, and grouping organisms is known as taxonomy . Historically, taxonomic procedures were quite straightforward and involved little more than naming new species and grouping organisms according to shared morphological characteristics. However, modern taxonomy 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 phylogenetic (=evolutionary) relationships. (A phylogeny is a hypothesis of evolutionary relationships). For example, taxonomists using traditional phenetic methods of taxonomic classification (based on overall morphological similarity without regard to evolutionary history) typically considered chimpanzees (genus Pan ), gorillas (genus Gorilla ), and orangutans (genus Pongo ) to be morphologically more similar to one another than any of them are to humans (genus Homo ). As a result, great apes have historically been placed in a separate family (Pongidae) from humans (Hominidae). However, cladistic techniques for phylogenetic reconstruction (which rely solely on evolutionary novelties, or apomorphies, 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 Pan and Homo by placing both genera in the same family (Hominidae). ***Note: By convention, all Latin species names are either underlined or italicized. e.g., Homo sapiens , Pan troglodytes 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 1.1 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 kingdom . Successively less inclusive groups (i.e., “lower” taxonomic levels) include phylum , class , order , family , genus , and species . More recently, other taxonomic levels (i.e., the super family) have been added to the Linnaean scheme. Each of these various levels in the Linnaean taxonomic hierarchy is referred to as a taxon (plural - taxa ). 1
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This note was uploaded on 02/21/2011 for the course RTF 305 taught by Professor Nasr during the Spring '07 term at University of Texas at Austin.

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Lab2_Reading_ - ANT 301 Intro to Physical Anthropology Fall...

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