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Animal Classification

Key Questions

  • The animal kingdom is separated into nine taxonomic ranks: Life > Domain > Kingdom > Phylum > Class > Order > Family > Genus > Species. Though this is the true classification for animals, the first two ranks are often omitted, and on occasion, an extra one - subfamily- is added.

    Take the lion, for example. Below is the animal classification for the lion:

    Kingdom: Animalia
    Phylum: Chordata
    Class: Mammalia
    Order: Carnivora
    Family: Felidae
    Subfamily: Pantherinae
    Genus: Panthera
    Species: Panthera leo

    Another example is the blue whale, whose animal classification is as follows:

    Kingdom: Animalia
    Phylum: Chordata
    Class: Mammalia
    Order: Cetacea
    Family: Balaenopteridae
    Genus: Balaenoptera
    Species: Balaenoptera musculus

  • Animal classification is the categorizing of animals and organisms hierarchically.

    The ranking system is based on a fixed number of levels such as kingdom, family, or genus. The order goes:

    Classification Levels

    Animal classification is based on an organisms decent from a common ancestor. Accordingly, the most important traits for classification are those inherited from a common ancestor. An example would be birds and bats, which both can fly, but this characteristic is not used to classify them into a class because they did not inherit this from a common ancestor. Despite their differences, both bats and whales feed their offspring milk, therefor this feature is used to classify them both as mammals.

    Examples:

    Whale:
    Kingdom: Animalia
    Phylum: Chordata
    Class: Mammalia
    Subclass: Eutheria
    Order: Cetacea

    Bat:
    Kingdom: Animalia
    Phylum: Chordata
    Class: Mammalia
    Infraclass: Eutheria
    Superorder: Laurasiatheria
    Order: Chiroptera

    *Note the similarities in bat and whale classification.

Questions