While biologists agree upon the classification system (there are some exceptions; botanists may use the term Division instead of Phylum, and biologists often used more categories such as "subphylum" or "superclass"), there is often much discussion as to how organisms should be classified. Because biologists continue to learn more about the evolutionary history of life, the classification of organisms is being constantly argued and revised. For example, from the time of Aristotle, to the 1960's, biologists divided all of life into two kingdoms; plants and animals. In 1959 R. H. Whittaker proposed a five kingdom system, which, because of it's logically separation of biological life, has become generally accepted.
To standardize our data collection, we will follow the five kingdom taxonomy scheme in our studies. We will focus our investigation on the animal kingdom. Below is a very abbreviated outline of the taxonomy of life, along with a general description of each taxon to help with some of your classification (you will still need to do some library research on your own). Try to identify all of the animals you observe at your study site down to their order taxon.
Despite the overall logic of the classification system, you will find that just about every taxon has "exceptions to the rule." For example; snakes are tetrapods (4-legged animals); a platypus is a mammal that lays eggs (and a few reptiles give birth to live young); and an octopus is a mollusk without a shell.
K - Monera (Greek - single, solitary): Simple cellular
structure, no organelles (prokaryotes vs. eukaryotes). Ex.
bacteria, blue-green algae.
K - Protoctista (Greek - very first to establish): The
kingdom is defined by exclusion. Those organisms that are
not plants, animals, or fungi. Ex. nucleated algae such as
seaweeds, protozoans, and slime molds.
K - Fungi (Latin, derived from Greek - sp(h)onges, sponges):
Obtain food through absorption, excrete enzymes for
digestion. Ex. molds, mushrooms, lichens.
K - Plantae (Latin - plant): Multicellular organisms that
are autotrophic (make complex "food" molecules from basic
constituents). Most use photosynthesis. Ex. mosses, ferns,
grasses, flowers, trees.
K - Animalia (Latin - breath, soul): Multicellular organisms
that develop from the fertilization of an egg by a sperm.
Heterotrophic (obtain food by ingestion). Ex. sponges,
worms, insects, fish, birds, humans.
There are approximately 32 Phyla in the animal kingdom.
Only 12 are reported here.
P - Porifera (Latin - to bear pores): Sponges.
P - Cnidaria (Greek - nettle): Also known as Coelenterates
(Greek - hollow intestine). Most are marine, some
C - Hydrozoa: Hydras.
C - Scyphozoa: True jellyfish.
C - Anthozoa: Corals, sea anemones.
P - Platyhelminthes (Greek - flat worm): Bilateral
symmetry. Have organs and tissues. Marine,
freshwater, moist soils, parasitic.
C - Turbellaria: Free living flatworms.
O - Neorhabdocoela: Marine and freshwater
C - Trematoda: Flukes (internal and external
C - Cestoda: Tapeworms (internal parasites).
P - Nemertina (Greek - sea nymph): Usually found in
coastal intertidal zones.
P - Rotifera (Latin - to bear wheel): Named for the
characteristic crown of cilia around the head of the
animal that, when beating, looks like a rotating
P - Nematoda (Greek - thread): Roundworms. Lack
segmentation, lack cilia. Common soil worms. It is
estimated that there are on average one billion
(1,000,000,000) nematodes in the first 2 cm of 1
acre of top soil. Ex. Ascaris, Caenorhabdites,
C - Adenophorea: Also called aphasmidia. Lack sense
C - Secernentea: Also called phasmidia. Have
P - Brachiopoda (Greek - Latin arm foot): These animals
superficially resemble clams, however shell
orientation is on top and bottom (bivalves of the
phylum Mollusca have shells that form on the left
and right side). This phylum mostly consists of
intertidal and subtidal marine animals.
C - Inarticulata: Lack hinges between the valves.
The valves look very similar.
C - Articulata: Valves have hinges, and look very
P - Mollusca (Latin - soft): Soft bodied animals with
an internal or external shell. This is the second
largest phylum (second to Arthropoda).
C - Monoplacophora: One flat shell. Found in deep
C - Aplacophora: Deep sea worms
C - Polyplacophera: Chitons
C - Pelecypoda: The "bivalves." Two hinged lateral
shells and a wedged shaped "foot". Bivalves
lack tentacles and a head.
O - Anisomyaria: Mussels (Mytiloida), scallops
and oysters (Pterioda).
O - Heterodonta: Clams.
O - Adapedonta: Razor clams.
C - Gastropoda: usually have chambered shells. Ex.
O - Mesogastropoda: Largest order of
gastropoda. Periwinkle snails.
O - Archaeogastropoda: Limpet snails.
O - Stylommatophora: Land slugs.
O - Neogastropoda: Rock shell snails, whelk
snails, conch snails.
O - Anaspidea: Reduced or absent shell.
Ex. sea hares.
O - Pyramidellida: Tusk shell snails.
C - Seaphopoda: Tusk shaped shells open at both
ends. Mud or sand burrowing animals.
C - Cephalopoda: Animals have a head, prehensile
arms and beak-like jaw. Ex. octopus, squid,
P - Annelida (Latin - little ring): Segmented worms.
C - Polycheata: Marine bristle worms.
C - Oligocheata: Terrestrial bristle worms.
O - Lumbriculida: Earthworms.
C - Hirudinea: Leeches.
O - Gnathobdellida: Aquatic and terrestrial
C - Myzostomaria: Parasitic worms.
PHYLUM - Arthropoda (Greek - joint foot): Largest phylum.
Animals have segmented bodies and segmented
appendages, and external skeleton, undergoes
metamorphosis from a larval form to a sexually
mature adult. The phylum is separated into two
"subphyla;" Mandibulata - which are identified by
mandible mouth parts and 3 distinct body parts: and
Chelicerata - which have chelicerae mouth parts and
the first two body segments have fused to one.
SP - Mandibulata: Identified by mandible mouth parts and
3 distinct body parts.
C - Crustacea: Aquatic, gill breathing.
O - Cladocera: Water fleas.
O - Copepoda: Cyclops.
O - Cirripedia: Barnacles.
O - Decapoda: Lobster, crayfish, crab, shrimp
O - Amphipoda:
O - Isopoda: Marine and freshwater isopods, and
terrestrial pill bugs.
CLASS - Diplopoda: Millipedes.
O - Juliformia: 40 or more cylindrical
O - Chordeumida: 28 to 60 rings. Eyes.
O - Colobognatha: 30 to 192 depressed rings.
Head and mouth parts small.
O - Polydesmida: Flat-backed. No eyes.
CLASS - Chilopoda: Centipedes.
O - Geophilomorpha: Slender, burrowing,
O - Scolopendromorpha: 21 or 23 pair of legs.
O - Lithobiomorpha:
O - Scutigeromorpha: Long legs and antennae.
Compound eyes. Found in dry, rocky areas.
C - Pauropoda: Similar to centipedes having branched
antennae and 9 or 10 pair of legs.
C - Symphyla: Similar to centipedes having 10 to 12
pair of legs.
C - Insecta: Animals having 3 pair of legs, 3 body
sections, generally 1 or 2 pair of wings, 1
pair of antennae. There are 25 orders of
insects. Here are 12 of the more common orders.
O - Protura: Small, eyeless, insects with
cone-shaped heads. Found in damp humus an
O - Thysanura: Fast running silverfish and
O - Thysanoptera: Thirps.
O - Isoptera: Termites.
O - Collembola: Springtails.
O - Ephemeroptera: Mayflies.
O - Trichoptera: Caddisflies.
O - Odonata: Dragonflies.
O - Orthoptera: Grasshoppers, roaches,
O - Hemiptera: True bugs.
O - Homoptera: Cicadas, aphids.
O - Lepidoptera: Butterflies, moths.
O - Diptera: True flies.
O - Hymenoptera: Ants, wasps, bees.
O - Coleoptera: Beetles.
O - Siphonoptera: Fleas.
SUBPHYLUM - Chelicerata: Chelicerae mouth parts and the first
two body segments have fused to one. 6 pairs of
appendages, first 2 pair different from the rest
(first pair are modified mouth parts, second pair
feeler like or claw like, remaining 4 pair
C - Pycnogonida: Sea spiders.
C - Merostomata: Horseshoe crabs.
C - Arachnida: Spiders, mites, ticks.
O - Araneae: Spiders.
O - Opiliones: Harvestmen, or daddy longlegs.
O - Acarina: Mites and ticks.
O - Pseudoscorpiones: Pseudoscorpions.
PHYLUM - Echinodermata (Greek - sea urchin skin): All are
marine animals, most are intertidal. Ex. starfish,
sea urchin, sand dollar, sea lilies, sea cucumbers.
PHYLUM - Chordata (Latin - cord): Animals having a single
dorsal nerve chord. The Phylum can be divided into 4
SP - Tunicata: Lack a brain. Ex. tunicates
SP - Cephalochordata: Lack a brain. Ex. lancelets
SP - Agnatha: Have a brain. Lack a jaw and pair
SP - Gnathostomata: Have a jaw. Have paired appendages.
Consists of 2 superclasses.
SC - Pisces: Fishes.
C - Chondrichthyes: Fish scales made of dentine and
enamel. Ex. sharks, skates, and rays
C - Osteichthyes: boney fishes.
SC - Tetrapoda: 4 limbed animals. There are 4 classes of
C - Amphibia: Lack scales. Respire through skin,
gills, lungs, or mouth linings. Eggs laid and
hatch in water.
O - Caudata: Salamanders.
O - Anura: Frogs an toads.
C - Reptilia: Dry scaley skin. Breath through lungs.
Eggs adapted to land.
O - Crocodilia: Alligators and crocodiles.
O - Testudines: Tortoises, and turtles.
O - Squamata: Lizards and snakes.
C - Aves: Birds/Feathered reptiles. Forelimbs adapted to
wings. There are 27 Orders of birds, below are
some of the most commonly seen.
O - Gaviiformes: Strong, straight bill. Pointed
wings. Legs far back on body. Webbed toes.
O - Podicipediformes: Short wings. Ex. grebes.
O - Procellariiformes: Tubular nostrils. Hooked
bill. Long narrow wings. Oily feathers.
Ex. albatrosses, shearwaters, petrels.
O - Pelecaniformes: 4 toes joined in a common
web. Ex. pelicans, boobies, cormorants.
O - Ciconiiformes: Long-legged waders (toes
unwebbed). Long neck. Ex. herons, egrets,
bitterns, storks, spoonbills, flamingos.
O - Anseriformes: Usually flat bill. Ex. ducks,
O - Falconiformes: Diurnal birds of prey. Ex.
vultures, kites, hawks, eagles, osprey,
O - Galliformes: Short bill. Short wings.
Ex. grouse, ptarmigans, quails, turkeys.
O - Gruiformes: Marsh birds. Ex. cranes, rails
O - Charadriiformes: Shorebirds. Ex. gulls,
terns, jacanas, snipes, oystercatchers,
plovers, sandpipers, avocets.
O - Columbiformes: Pidgeon-like birds.
Ex. pigeons, doves, sand grouse
O - Strigiformes: Owls. Ex. owls (simple!).
O - Apodiformes: Long wings. Weak feet.
Ex. swifts, hummingbirds.
O - Coraciiformes: Typically large head. Large
bill. Ex. kingfishers, motmots,
O - Piciformes: Long strong well developed
bill. Ex. woodpeckers, jacamars,
O - Passeriformes: Perching foot
characteristic. Referred to as "perching
birds" or "song birds." Ex. (wide ranging)
crows, larks, flycatchers, swallows,
chickadees, wrens, thrushes, warblers,
sparrows,, finches, etc.
C - Mammalia: Animals with hair, give birth to live
young, nourish young with milk. There are 20
orders of mammals, below are some of the most
O - Chiroptera: Forelimbs modified for flight.
O - Insectivora: Typically small body size.
Small eyes. Elongate snout. Simple cheek
teeth. Pelage of one hair type. Ex. shrews
O - Rodentia: Typically small body size. One
pair of upper and lower incisors.
Ex. mice, rats, chipmunks, squirrels,
O - Lagomorpha: Long ears. Indistinct or small
tail. Soles of feet covered with fur. Two
pair of upper incisors (second pair behind
the first pair. Ex. rabbits, hares, pikas.
O - Carnivora: Medium to large body size. Limbs
variable in structure. Claws. Large,
pointed, curved canine teeth. Ex. weasels,
mongooses, raccoons, cats, hyaenas, dogs,
O - Perissodactyla: Limbs similar. Hoofs. Odd
number of toes. Ex. horses, zebras,
O - Artiodactyla: Limbs similar. Hoofs. Even
number of toes. Ex. pigs, peccaries,
hippopotamuses, camels, deer, giraffes,
cattle, sheep, antelopes.
O - Primates: Opposable thumb. Finger nails.
Large brain case. Ex. lemurs, monkeys,
marmosets, apes, humans.