Taxonomy is the science of studying how living things are related to each other on the Tree of Life.

Carlous Linnaeus (1707-1778) developed the modern taxonomic system used today. It is a hierarchial system that groups organisms from species (the most specific) to kingdom. The grouping begins with Kingdom, of which there are five domains: Animalia, Plantae, Fungi, Bacterium, and Protoctista.


After Kingdom follow: phylum, class, order, family, genus and lastly species. These are outlined in the diagram below, which shows how these labels are like an "address" for the organism, beginning with a large grouping and becoming more specific each time.  The genus and species names are usually italicized.

taxonomy-picture1Go to the next page to see a larger diagram showing the tree of life.

Here is a tree that shows how all of the shells in the shell kit are related to one another.

shell-kit-treeClick Critters to go to an interactive taxonomy exercise made by HHMI.

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