What ?

Classification of life!



There are millions of different living things on this planet and who knows how much more out there in the universe!!

Before we can make any sense out of the life we find we need to group it and name it so we can describe it to others.


-What is a shark?

Scientists group things together into groups with similar characteristics, a process called "taxonomy", to build a structure called "The Tree of Life".


Taxonomy groups all living things together in groups that seperate out some but not others, so we can give names to groups of animals with similar characteristics. There are different levels of grouping so that the groups become smaller and smaller until you come down to a name with two parts in latin that describes ONLY that animal.


Think about trees, daffodils, snakes, cows, Chimpanzees and humans (yes humans too are animals, just smarter than most!!)


Trees and daffodils are PLANTS

Chimpanzees, Humans, Snakes and Cows are ANIMALS


That's our first group, now if we look at just the animals...


Humans, Chimps and Cows are all MAMMALS

Snakes are REPTILES


Now lets look at just the Mammals


Humans and Chimps are ANTHROPODS



So you can see that as we get further down the groupings the number of animals in that grouping get less. Eventually we get to just one animal which is given a two part name in latin, you're already a little familiar with these names......think of Jurassic Park, what's the biggest baddest dinosaur ?

Tyranosaurus Rex - Which means "King of the terrible lizards" (Rex means King)

Yes that's right, even animals which no longer exist have been categorised in the tree of life. So we've talked all about categorising these living things, so what do we call these categories ?


The categories are :

1 - Kingdom

2 - Phylum

3 - Class

4 - Sub Class

5 - Order

6 - Family

7 - Genus

8 - Species

We'll explain them all below...

Lets look at what makes up the main groups, working from the top, down to the great white shark. You can also check out this link to explore through the different levels.

1 - Kingdom

The first group is "Kingdom" - think about a tree, now think about a dog. What's the major difference between them ?

Well a dog is an animal and a tree is a plant - That's the highest level grouping called "kingdom."

It is a little more complicated than that because there are a few other kingdoms, usually for microscopic creatures - but who cares, let the scientists argue the tough questions like "is a virus alive or not?" (Some scientists give viruses their own kingdom - A virus is a kind of a microscopic bug that can make you sick) - Here's a few answers on the subject - Here's an answer., Here's another and more about Viruses, here's another which says no!

(The Hermione's among you, Harry Potter fans will know what I mean) - can click on the "level" icon to look at the level III stuff) and look up more on this page - Click here to see the Tree of Life Page (Complex)


2 - Phylum

This funny sounding word is just a name for a group that encompasses MANY kinds of animals, the phyla (plural of phylum) are :

Porifera - These are sponges, just like the bath sponges. There are many shapes and sizes of sponge, one of my favorites is the basket sponge, they're brown and grow like a huge laundry basket. Sponges like on reefs in warm and cold water, they have many holes in them through which water passes and they filter out nutrients. When they are gathered, cleaned, cut and dried they become natural bath sponges (although now we also make artificial sponge from plastic). Sponges were a big harvest from Florida, The Caribbean and the Greek islands, fishermen would use hooks on long poles or dive using traditional copper diving helmets to hunt for the sponges.

Cnidaria - These are creatures that include jellyfish and corals, the actual jelly like animal that is the living part of coral. A piece of coral is a colony of these "polyps" living together.

Platyhelminthes -

Nematoda - A group of many kinds of round small worms, found everywhere on earth, many different species.

Mollusca - Creatures with a shell, both land and sea, includes slugs and snails as well as cephalpods (Octopi, Squid, Cuttlefish).

Annelida - Segmented worms, includes the type of worms you'd find in your back garden and use for fishing.

Arthropoda - Animals with exoskeletons (hard chitinous shells that basically puts their bones on the outside), crustaceans like Shrimp, Crawfish, Lobsters, Crabs (SHARKYJONES says "mmmm I'm getting hungry now - All those are boiled up in cajun spices down here in Louisiana, you haven't lived until you've had hot boiled crawfish in cayenne peppers!! - Although I'm from the UK, I currently live in New Orleans, great eating for a hungry shark like me!")

Echinoderms - Literally means spiny skin, this includes Urchins, starfish and similar. Urchins and starfish are closely related.

Chordata - Animals with spinal chords, like you and me. All the other animals we've discussed so far are fairly simple in structure, but Chordates have a central spinal column to transmit complex nerve impulses.

3 - Class

The phylum chordata has 7 classes in it. Because Agnatha, Osteithyes and Chondricthyes are all fish, it may be easier for you to remember the class chordata as :

Mammals - the same as us, they are warm blooded, give birth to live young and provide milk to their young.

Birds - Also warm blooded, have feathers and lay eggs.

Reptiles - Cold blooded, with scales, lay eggs.

Amphibians - Cold blooded, lay jelly like eggs, can live on land or water breathing through their skin and with lungs

Fish - Cold blooded, lay eggs, breathe water


Then you can see there are really 3 classes of fish

Agnatha - Hagfishes , ugly things that I don't like but they have their important place in nature. They are slimy fish with no real jaw, just a circular row of teeth, they often eat dead animals, but are also parasites (creatures that live off other creatures without any benefit to the host and often harm the host), they use their circular mouth full of teeth to cut a circular shaped wound on the skin of a fish or a whale, they then eat a chunk of the flesh or suck blood. Don't worry they don't hurt humans. I just don't like parasites! (Although some lawyers can be OK ;-) ... just kidding !!!!) - Like sharks these fish don't have bones.

Osteithyes - Bony Fish, the biggest group of fish, both freshwater and saltwater. Have scales, bones, bony gill covers and swim bladders. You can learn more about the main types of fish here.

Chondricthyes - Cartilaginous fish, including Sharks, Rays and Chimarae, these fish don't have bones, instead they have cartilage - what's that ? - Touch you nose and your ears, feel that ? - That's cartilage. Its not solid like bone, but is very flexible and light.


4 - Sub Class

Sub Class is a group below class. In the class Chondricthyes there are 2 subclasses :

Bradyodonti - This includes Chimerae, a very ancient kind of fish, sometimes known as rabbitfishes.

Elasmobranchii - This is the subclass that includes sharks and rays, now we're getting close to home. This is a word to remember since people like you who like sharks are often called "Elasmophiles"


5 - Order

There are 8 orders of Sharks and 6 orders of rays.

The orders of Sharks break down like this :


6 - Family

Orders break down into different families with simularities between each family but slight differences. For example :


The Order Carcharhiniforme has at least 215 species in 6 families, with some quite big differences , these are the families that make up the order ....

Carcharhinidae - Requiem Sharks, includes sharks like the Blue Shark, Tiger shark etc., the biggest family in the biggest order of sharks

Sphyrnidae - Hammerheads, 8 species

Hemigaleidae - Weasel sharks , 7 species in the family

Triakidae - Houndsharks - 37 species

Proscylliidae - finback catsharks 5 species

Scyliorhinidae - Catsharks - 105 species.

I'm sure there are more families, when I have more of the site finished I'll update this. You can also read more detail about all the other shark families, by clicking on the "WHAT" button and clicking on the question "Shark Families". There are also drawings of them there. As time goes on I'll have drawings of many of these families.


7 & 8 - Genus and Species

Think of a name "Elvis Presley" for example (I'm a bit of an Elvis fan!), Elvis had a daughter called Lisa-Marie Presley and a gather called Vernon Presley. They all had the name "Presley" as a second name, which meant they were related (Just like my name Sharky Jones, means I'm a Jones).

Genus and Species work like this, except that for animals their second name is their first name and their first name is their second name. So some species that are closey related may have the same Genus name, but their species name is different e.g.

Blacktip Shark - Carcharhinus (Genus) Limbatus (Species)

Grey Reef Shark - Carcharhinus (Genus) Amblyrhincus (Species)

Here the genus is Carcharhinus, not to be confused with the Family which is Carcharhinidae or the Order Carcharhiniforme. Don't worry not all genus, families and species sound as similar or are as confusing.

But when you get right down to the two part name you've totally identified any animal and there can be no confusion, even if the English name describes two different sharks on two different continents with the same name - once you use the scientific name you can be sure you're talking about the same shark.


Well to make it easier, most of my friends' character names are related to their scientific names e.g. Limby the blacktip (C.Limbatus) or Ambly the Grey Reef (C.Amblyrhincus).


Lets pick a shark and look at his Taxonomy.....


Let's look at my friend "Crunch", he's a Great white Shark - Carcharadon Carcharias

Kingdom - Animalia

Phylum - Chordata

Class - Chondrichthyes

SubClass - Elasmobranchia

Order - Lamniforme

Family - Laminidae

Genus - Carcharadon

Species - Carcharadon Carcharias

In fact everything down to Subclass will be the same for any shark.

Here's another link to shark taxonomy


Well later on we'll take a look at other sharks and even other animals like humans to make it clearer, but that's enough for now.

Here's a couple of questions though -

Can you tell my what Scientific name is for :

1. Humans

2. Your Pet Dog

3. Your Pet Cat

4. SharkyJones (SharkyJones is a Porbeagle Shark, a species which lives around the UK and is related to the Great White)

5. Oceanic Whitetip Shark

6. Bottle Nose Dolphin

7. Puffin ( British Sea Bird)

8. Conger Eel

9. Killer Whale

The last three are easy to remember since their Genus and Species are the same e.g. European Freshwater Eel "Anguilla Anguilla"

The questions are just for fun.

The highest level of grouping is to group things according to kingdom .


(idea FUN STUFF and TECHNICAL STUFF< have a marker)