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Comparing Taxonomy: The search for a common ancestor.Featured science projectScience project video

Abstract

There are millions of species of plants and animals, and the ability to study them requires a system for classifying them. Taxonomy is the study of how living things are related to each other. By classifying a species, it is possible to find how closely it is related to other species based on its link to a common ancestor. In this science project, you will visit a zoo, botanical garden, or other facility, find species that interest you and compare their taxonomy.

Objective

Compare the taxonomy of different species.

Scientific Terms

Taxonomy, Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genius, Species

Background

Taxonomy describes the system for classifying living organisms. All living species that have been classified by scientist are classified using the follow categories:

  • Kingdom
  • Phylum
  • Class
  • Order
  • Family
  • Genius
  • Species

Example: The taxonomy of a black bear (Ursus americanus) is:

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Carnivora

Family: Ursidae

Genus: Ursus

Species: americanus

Example: The taxonomy of a sea lion (Scientific name: Zalophus californianus)

is:

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Carnivora

Family: Otariidae

Genus: Zalophus

Species: californianus

When we compare the taxonomy of a black bear and sea lion, we find that they share a lot in common. They share the same classifications for kingdom, phylum, and order. Their classifications differ at the level of family and genus. The lowest classification they share in common is order. This tells us that both the sea lion and the black bear have a common ancestor at this level.

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