This page describes the various levels of the Taxonomic Hierarchy. The first thought that may spring to mind when we talk about Taxonomy is stuffing animals! Now that is not the sort of thing we at Crazy Creatures are in to – that’s Taxidermy! Taxonomy, however, is the process of naming and classifying organisms, so that there is a formal system recognising the diversity of life on earth.
Domain is the highest classification within all living things. There are 3 domains. Bacteria, Archaea, Eukarya. All creatures within the scope of the Crazy Creatures website are within the Domain Eukarya.
Kingdom is the next level in the hierarchy. Within the Domain Eukarya there are 4 Kingdoms including Plantae (Plants) and Animalia (Animals). All creatures described on this website are within the Kindom Animalia.
Phylum is a vague classification with no great definition available. However it generally indicates the way the body of the creature is made up, for example Chordata are animals with a spine (including humans, lions, etc), and Arthropoda have external skeletons, like insects.
Class describes the difference between members of the same Phylum, distinguishing between obvious characteristics such as different skin types (scales, feathers, hair). For example, it is clear that a dog is quite similar to a cat, but very different to a lizard. So we get Mammalia (including humans, cats, bears), Reptilia (Lizards, Snakes), Pices (Fish) and Aves (Birds) amongst others.
Order is a further breakdown, made when we look at various mammals and can see further groupings, e.g. lions are similar to cheetahs but not to Monkeys and Baboons. So we get Orders such as Carnivora (Lions, dogs, etc), Primates (Monkeys, Humans), and others.
Family is like a surname, grouping very similar creatures. Within an Order there are obvious differences, like dogs and cats are both carnivores, but they are quite obviously different. So we get Families like Felidae (Cats) and Canidea (Dogs).
Genus covers a further level in hierarchy, distinguishing between the members of each Family. For example a Gorilla and a Chimpanzee share the same Family (Hominidae), but have some important differences which require them to be grouped separately.
Species is the most basic taxonomic unit is the species. These are grouped by creatures that interbreed freely and always produce similar offspring. So, mate a horse with a horse and you end up with a horse. A horse with a donkey produces a mule. So a horse and a donkey are the same genus, they are a different species. However, it is very rare for different species to mate in nature.
A further taxonomic level is the Sub-Species which is used to describe subtle differences within a species that may live in a different geographical area. Maybe slightly different colourings. Not really worth worrying about though!
So, you may wish to see an example! Lets look at the Lion (Panthera Leo):
You can now also see where the scientific name, like Panthera Leo, for each creature comes from.