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
Cows are RUMINANTS
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
Lets pick a shark and look at his Taxonomy.....
Let's look at my friend "Crunch", he's a Great white Shark - Carcharadon
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
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 :
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)