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  Scientific Nomenclature: Part 1. Taxonomic Hierarchy

Scientific Nomenclature: Part 1. Taxonomic Hierarchy

16 May, 2014 by Debbie Brace

I have recently noticed that throughout my blogs I have provided the scientific name and classification when I am describing an organism, but I have never really explained these or their importance. So I thought it was about time that I did. I’ve broken this subject up into 3 blogs; Part 1 Taxonomic Hierarchy, Part 2 Scientific Names and Part 3 The Father of Taxonomy.

So let’s begin by discussing the taxonomic hierarchy. The taxonomic hierarchy is a way of describing and mapping how organisms are related to one another.

The hierarchy at the basic level is:

Taxonomic Hierarchy

With each step (from top to bottom) organisms are split into smaller and smaller groups. The more hierarchal ranks that organisms share (always from top to bottom) the more closely related those organisms are and similarly the less ranks they share, the more distantly related they are. This is a very brief overview of taxonomy, but it is sufficient for understanding the basics of scientific names and classification. The table below shows the taxonomic ranking for humans, common chimpanzees, grey wolves, tiger snakes and monarch butterflies. I have placed these animals in order of how related they are to humans and as you will notice this is reflected in the number of ranks each animal shares in common with humans (chimpanzees sharing the most ranks in common with humans and monarch butterflies the least).

Taxonomic Hierarchy Table

Sources and more information: