The Organization of Living Things: Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species
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Lemurs: Tails From The Canopy
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Taxonomy Description (continued)

The organization of living things can be seen like a pyramid or tree with seven major levels or categories: Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species.

There is a simple pneumonic that can help students remember the organization of nature: Kangaroos Play Cellos, Orangutans Fiddle, Gorillas Sing.

If we take a Ring-tailed Lemur, we can trace it through the hierarchy of nature, taxonomy as follows, it belongs to:

The Animal …Kingdom
sharing with all other members of this group the need to feed on organic matter (unlike plants which can create energy using light and minerals)

The Chordate (or vertebrate) … Phylum
sharing with all other members of this group of animals, a back bone with a hollow nerve chord

The Mammal … Class
sharing with all other members of this group of vertebrates, the ability to feed their offspring on milk and having a body covering which includes fur

The Primate … Order
Sharing with all other members of this group of mammals, a thumb that can be opposed to the other digits, binocular vision and various more broadly defined characteristics (including high intelligence, relatively long maturation period for the young, dental similarities, tendency for complex social organization, and generally bearing one or two young)

The Lemuridae … Family
Sharing with other members of this group of primates, a slightly longer nose, smaller brain, long slender limbs, a tail, more specific dental features including the grooming comb formed by the lower incisor and canine teeth

The Lemur … Genus
Sharing with other members of this group of lemurs, scent marking methods, vocalizations, aspects of social structure and overall body shape

The Ring-tailed Lemur … Species

A species is the primary unit of biological classification or taxonomy. Species members share a basic genetic similarity and can interbreed and produce viable or fertile offspring.

It is important to be aware, when exploring the field of taxonomy, that as is true in many branches of science, it is always changing and evolving. As our knowledge deepens and our tools for investigation become more precise there are often shifts and changes in how we describe an animal from a taxonomic point of view. A classic case can be seen with Pandas. When first described by European scientists they were classified as bears or ursids… a family of carnivores (order) in the mammal class of vertebrate animals. Then for a few decades, scientists thought that they weren’t bears and placed them, still within the carnivore order… but in a family closer to raccoons. In the last fifteen years, after further study and aided by the new science of gene mapping, pandas have been returned to the bear family… an unusual case of an older view being (at least for now) correct after all.

If you choose to explore taxonomy with your students it is wise to avoid too many absolutes and to encourage a questioning environment in your discussions.

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Animal: Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species