What is the taxonomy?

We explain what is the taxonomy, what are the levels of organization used and the objectives that this science poses.

  1. What is the taxonomy?

Taxonomy is understood  as  the science of classification : its name comes from the Greek words  Táxis  (“ordering”) and  nomos  (“rule, knowing”).

It is usually considered a branch of the biological sciences (specifically Systematic Biology) that deals with the classification of living organisms that are reported to date.

For this it uses the concepts of taxon and phylogenetic tree:

Taxon . A taxon is a level of organization of living beings, a group of living beings endowed with circumscription, position and rank within the evolutionary history of life. This means:

  • Circumscription . The organisms within a taxon clearly differ from those belonging to another, based on a list of diagnostic characters or exclusive properties of the group.
  • Range . Within the same taxon, living beings emerged at different times of time , and that particular history of their origin assumes that some appeared first than the others, forming a kind of family.
  • Position . The taxa differ from each other and also present a hierarchical history of their origin, so that in turn the living beings of the same taxon occupy a specific place in the general history of life.

Phylogenetic tree . The phylogenetic tree is a way to illustrate the way in which life evolved from its origins to today, using a kind of family tree whose branches represent the different evolutionary paths that a species takes to become two or more different, completely new. This way of representing life allows us to classify beings based on their participation in this evolutionary history.

The point of the taxonomy is, then, that there are different ways of understanding this history of the origin of the species, and based on each version, it is possible to construct a different category and classification model.

Thus, in different phylogenetic trees, the branches may be occupied by very different evolutionary groups, depending on which characteristics are chosen to distinguish between one or other living beings.

Objective of the taxonomy

Seen in this way, taxonomy is a discipline that pursues the most likely history of the origin of life and the process of transformations that resulted in the appearance of human beings and contemporary animals that we know well.

In addition, the history of taxonomy, one of the specific branches of this discipline , allows us to know the way in which human beings have chosen to classify living beings, so that not only do we not make mistakes already made or rescue knowledge discarded at the time but necessary, but also understand more deeply the cultural way in which we think about life and think about the world around us.

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