What is Linnean classification

00:00 Mon 21st May 2001 |

A.� It's a scientific scheme that groups species together into increasingly smaller groups within a hierarchy.

It gets its name from its creator Carolus Linnaeus (1707 - 1778), a Swedish botanist and naturalist.

Q.� How does Linnean classification work

A.� All living things are gradually more and more precisely categorised into seven increasingly character specific groups: kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus and species.

For example, humans belong to the kingdom animals, the phylum vertebrates (animals with a back bone), the class mammals (animals with hair and mammary glands), the order primates (mammals that can oppose their thumb and fingers), the family hominid (primates that walk on two legs), the genus homo (hominids that have a suite of specific features, including large brains) and the species sapiens. A species is defined as a group of living organisms that can breed and produce fertile offspring.

Q.� Why bother classifying living things

A.� By giving an organism a scientific name it makes it easier to identify from country to country, regardless of what the organisms local, common name may be.

For example if scientists from different counties were talking about an animal each using their own common name for it, things could get confusing.

Q.� What do scientists look at when classifying an organism

A.� Indicators of where an organisms should be placed within the Linnean classification scheme can be found in a number of areas.

Scientists consider both the internal and external structure, how the organism reproduces and how it obtains nutrition.

Q.� Which kingdom has the most species

A.� The animal kingdom has a over a million known species.

Q.� Why do humans have two names

A.� The system gives all living things a name with two parts, the first part of the name is the genus (group) while second part indicates the species (breed).

Q.� What language is Homo sapiens

A.� It's Latin, the standard intellectual language used when Linnaeus was devising his classification.

Q.� Was Linnaeus the first to classify living organisms

A.� No, others before him had tried. Among early attempts to order living things comes the work of the Greek Theophrastus (370-285 BC), a student of the Greek philosopher Aristotle. He classified plants into herbs, shrubs and trees.

When travellers returned from voyages to hitherto unknown parts of the globe with new plants and animals in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, scientists realised that existing classification systems couldn't cope.

Do you want to know how something works Click here to ask.

by Lisa Cardy

Do you have a question about How it Works?