TaxonomyTaxonomy may refer to either a hierarchical classification of things, or the principles underlying the classification. Almost anything—animate objects, inanimate objects, places, and events—may be classified according to some taxonomic scheme.
Mathematically, a taxonomy is a tree structure of classifications for a given set of objects. At the top of this structure is a single classification—the root node—that applies to all objects. Nodes below this root are more specific classifications that apply to subsets of the total set of classified objects. So for instance in Carolus Linnaeus's Scientific classification of organisms, the root is the Organism (as this applies to all living things, it is implied rather than stated explicitly). Below this are the Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, and Species, with various other ranks sometimes inserted.
Some have argued that the human mind naturally organizes its knowledge of the world into such systems. This view is often based on the epistemology of Immanuel Kant.
Anthropologists have observed that taxonomies are generally embedded in local cultural and social systems, and serve various social functions. Perhaps the most well-known and influential study of folk taxonomies is Emile Durkheim's The Elementary Forms of Religious Life. The theories of Kant and Durkheim also influenced Claude Levi-Strauss, the founder of anthropological structuralism. Levi-Strauss wrote two important books on taxonomies; Totemism and The Savage Mind.
Such taxonomies as those analyzed by Durkheim and Levi-Strauss are sometimes called folk taxonomies to distinguish them from scientific taxonomies that claim to be disembedded from social relations and thus objective and universal. The most well-known and widely used scientific taxonomy is Linnaean taxonomy which classifies living things and originated with Carolus Linnaeus. This taxonomic system is accessible from the article evolutionary tree.
In recent years taxonomic classification has gained support from molecular systematics, a branch of bioinformatics that employs the method of gene sequencing to construct phylogenetic trees.
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Checklists, articles, and links for the world of life.
Integrated Taxonomic Information System
Authoritative taxonomic information on plants, animals, fungi, and microbes of North America and the world.
World Biodiversity Database
A growing taxonomic database and information system that aims at documenting all presently known species (about 1.7 million). Taxonomic trees, descriptions, synonyms, literature citations, and molecular database queries.
BioImages - Virtual Fieldguide for UK Biodiversity
Large selection of pictures of organisms, mostly British in origin. Images are an aid to identification, showing different stages, states and views of the organisms. Search the database or follow a taxonomic tree.
Classification of all forms of life, with some photos. Has a strong South African emphasis.
Tree of Life
Phylogenetic tree with information about the diversity of organisms on Earth, their history, and characteristics. An on-going multi-authored project hosted by the University of Arizona.
Dedicated to the beauty and science of nature and to the joys nature brings to those who explore it. The material here is organized according to the biological principles of Taxonomy.
Information about taxonomy, natural history, distribution, abundance, and ecology of many species worldwide. Includes tools to identify, map, and database species.
Non-profit initiative of The Wildscreen Trust with photographs, movie clips, sound recordings, and brief desriptions of selected endangered and protected species of Britain and the rest of the world.
Includes the Index to Organism Names, a publicly available subset of TRITON the Taxonomy Resource, and the Zoological Record Thesaurus.
A gateway to quality, evaluated Internet resources in the natural world co-ordinated by The Natural History Museum, London.
Project to establish web-based databases of organisms and other natural sciences subjects. Includes information about some taxonomic groups.
Lepidoptera and Other Life Forms
Taxonomic tree of mammals, insects, birds, and plants. Includes common and scientific names, publication details, references, links, general range maps, and some images. Most complete for Lepidoptera.
Searchable and browsable taxonomy tree of organisms for which there are publicly available gene sequences.
Canadian Version of Integrated Taxonomic Information System
Searchable database of four kingdoms: plant, animal, fungi, monera. Search by scientific or common names, English or French.
Mikko's Phylogeny Archive
A compilation of various phylogenetic trees representing different views of taxonomy. Includes links to other taxonomic websites.
Flora and Fauna of the Great Lakes
Provides access to materials from the fish, mammal, and fungus collections of the University of Michigan, USA. Includes many images of specimens.
Survey of the Plant Kingdoms
Explores plant anatomy, taxonomy, and classification, from Monera through the higher plants. Includes descriptions as well as graphics and schematics.