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Question Video: Defining the Term Taxonomy Biology

Fill in the blank: Taxonomy is the scientific study of _.


Video Transcript

Fill in the blank. Taxonomy is the scientific study of blank. (A) Animals, (B) plants, (C) unicellular organisms, or (D) classification.

We’re asked to define taxonomy, which might sound at first like a financial term. However, taxonomy is actually an important field of biology that has been studied for centuries. It was first studied by the Greek scientist Aristotle in the fourth century. However, it is Carl Linnaeus, a botanist that lived in the 1700s, that is considered the father of taxonomy. He proposed the system of a taxonomic hierarchy by creating five taxonomic levels, or taxa. The most general of these was the taxon kingdom. Linnaeus proposed three kingdoms: plants, animals, and minerals.

Although we have obviously made some changes to his system, we still use many aspects of it today. For example, we still use the taxon kingdom. But scientists continue to debate how many kingdoms should be recognized, and some have proposed even broader taxa, such as domains or empires. Here, we see an example of a five-kingdom system in which all living things are classified into five categories: prokaryotes, protists, plants, fungi, and animals.

After being placed into a kingdom, organisms can be classified into more specific taxa based on shared characteristics and their evolutionarily history. In most taxonomic systems, the levels of the hierarchy after kingdom are phylum, class, order, family, genus, and species. The final two classifications, genus and species, comprise the scientific name for an organism. For example, looking at the various taxa for humans shows us that the genus is Homo and the species is sapiens. This is a good time to point out that genus and species are written in italics. So, the scientific name for humans is Homo sapiens.

This system of binomial nomenclature, or two-name classification, was actually first proposed by Linnaeus, and it is considered by many to be his most important contribution to taxonomy. As you may have already concluded, taxonomy is the scientific study of classifying and naming organisms.

Therefore, answer choice (D), classification, is the term that correctly fills in the blank. And the completed sentence reads “Taxonomy is the scientific study of classification.”

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