Búsqueda alfabética
Search by Word

Search by Topic

Glossary of Terms >


Term Scientific classification

A method by which biologists group and categorize organisms and their different subgroups (taxa). Modern classification has its roots in the system created by Carlos Linnaeus, who proposed a systematic hierarchy of species according to shared physical characteristics. Linnaeus also proposed the binomial formula, consisting of the use of two words to assign a unique name for each species.

            There are 8 main taxonomic ranks: (1) domain, (2) kingdom, (3) phylum/division, (4) class, (5) order, (6) family, (7) genus, (8) species. The fundamental category is species because it offers the basic unit of biological classification.

(1) A domain is the highest category in which living organisms are distributed. According to the most widely-accepted system, there are three domains: Archea (archaea), Bacteria (bacteria), and Eukaryotes (Eukaryota). The domains are divided into kingdoms.

(2) A kingdom is each of the large subdivisions into which living organisms are divided in terms of their common characteristics. The modern system now recognizes the existence of 6 kingdoms: archaebacteria, eubacteria, protists, fungi, plants, and animals. Some scientists link the archaebacteria and eubacteria to form the kingdom of moneras (or monerans), and refer to a 5-kingdom system.

(3) A phylum is a taxonomic rank between kingdom and class. It represents the larger groups of organisms with certain evolutionary traits, usually based on their internal organization. In botany, often the term “division” is used instead of phylum, but the two are equivalent.

(4) A class is a taxonomic group comprising several orders of plants and animals with many common characteristics.

(5) In biology, the order is the systematic unit between class and family in taxonomic categorization.

(6) The family is the biological systematic unit and taxonomic category between order and genus. The family is the most important taxonomic category after genus and species. The name of a family is formed by a root and an ending. To name a family, the root that is used corresponds to the name that represents the genus, not necessarily the most representative population (in number of species or popularity of the name). 

(7) Hierarchically, the genus is a taxonomic category between the family and species. Thus, a genus is a group that brings together several related species, but there are some genuses that are monospecific (containing a single species).

(8) A species is often defined as a group of organisms capable of interbreeding and producing fertile offspring. While in many cases this definition is adequate, there are more accurate measurements, for example, those based on similarity of DNA, which are in use.

The names of species are binomial, or formed by two words. The first word is the name of the genus to which it belongs and is always written with the first letter capitalized; the second word corresponds to the Latin name that designates the type and must be written entirely in lowercase. Thus, the scientific name of the palmchat bird is Dulus dominicus, where Dulus is the genus name, and dominicus is the specific epithet and the binomial Dulus dominicus designates the species of bird.

In Table S-1 there are two examples of scientific classification: the solenodonte, a mammal endemic to Hispaniola, and mahogany, a native plant of the island. Both species belong to the Eukaryota (eukaryotes) Domain.


Additional Information
GraphicClasificación cientí­fica
LinkExamples of scientific classification
Topic  BiodiversityForest resourcesEnvironmental managementEnvironmental educationProtected areasResources coastal / marine