Taxon

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African elephants form the genus Loxodonta, a widely accepted taxon. Elephants in Kenya.jpg
African elephants form the genus Loxodonta, a widely accepted taxon.

In biology, a taxon (plural taxa; back-formation from taxonomy ) is a group of one or more populations of an organism or organisms seen by taxonomists to form a unit. Although neither is required, a taxon is usually known by a particular name and given a particular ranking, especially if and when it is accepted or becomes established. It is not uncommon, however, for taxonomists to remain at odds over what belongs to a taxon and the criteria used for inclusion. If a taxon is given a formal scientific name, its use is then governed by one of the nomenclature codes specifying which scientific name is correct for a particular grouping.

Contents

Initial attempts at classifying and ordering organisms (plants and animals) were set forth in Linnaeus's system in Systema Naturae , 10th edition, (1758) [1] as well as an unpublished work by Bernard and Antoine Laurent de Jussieu. The idea of a unit-based system of biological classification was first made widely available in 1805 in the introduction of Jean-Baptiste Lamarck's Flore françoise, of Augustin Pyramus de Candolle's Principes élémentaires de botanique. Lamarck set out a system for the "natural classification" of plants. Since then, systematists continue to construct accurate classifications encompassing the diversity of life; today, a "good" or "useful" taxon is commonly taken to be one that reflects evolutionary relationships. [note 1]

Many modern systematists, such as advocates of phylogenetic nomenclature, use cladistic methods that require taxa to be monophyletic (all descendants of some ancestor). Their basic unit, therefore, is the clade rather than the taxon. Similarly, among those contemporary taxonomists working with the traditional Linnean (binomial) nomenclature, few propose taxa they know to be paraphyletic. [2] An example of a well-established taxon that is not also a clade is the class Reptilia, the reptiles; birds are descendants of reptiles but are not included in the Reptilia (birds are included in the Aves).

History

The term taxon was first used in 1926 by Adolf Meyer-Abich for animal groups, as a backformation from the word Taxonomy; the word Taxonomy had been coined a century before from the Greek components τάξις (taxis, meaning arrangement) and -νομία (-nomia meaning method). [3] [4] For plants, it was proposed by Herman Johannes Lam in 1948, and it was adopted at the VII International Botanical Congress, held in 1950. [5]

Definition

The Glossary of the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature (1999) defines [6] a

A taxonomic unit, whether named or not: i.e. a population, or group of populations of organisms which are usually inferred to be phylogenetically related and which have characters in common which differentiate (q.v.) the unit (e.g. a geographic population, a genus, a family, an order) from other such units. A taxon encompasses all included taxa of lower rank (q.v.) and individual organisms. [...]"

Ranks

Taxon LifeDomainKingdomPhylumClassOrderFamilyGenusSpecies
The hierarchy of biological classification's eight major taxonomic ranks. Intermediate minor rankings are not shown.

A taxon can be assigned a taxonomic rank, usually (but not necessarily) when it is given a formal name.

"Phylum" applies formally to any biological domain, but traditionally it was always used for animals, whereas "Division" was traditionally often used for plants, fungi, etc.

A prefix is used to indicate a ranking of lesser importance. The prefix super- indicates a rank above, the prefix sub- indicates a rank below. In zoology the prefix infra- indicates a rank below sub-. For instance, among the additional ranks of class are superclass, subclass and infraclass.

Rank is relative, and restricted to a particular systematic schema. For example, liverworts have been grouped, in various systems of classification, as a family, order, class, or division (phylum). The use of a narrow set of ranks is challenged by users of cladistics; for example, the mere 10 ranks traditionally used between animal families (governed by the ICZN) and animal phyla (usually the highest relevant rank in taxonomic work) often cannot adequately represent the evolutionary history as more about a lineage's phylogeny becomes known.

In addition, the class rank is quite often not an evolutionary but a phenetic or paraphyletic group and as opposed to those ranks governed by the ICZN (family-level, genus-level and species-level taxa), can usually not be made monophyletic by exchanging the taxa contained therein. This has given rise to phylogenetic taxonomy and the ongoing development of the PhyloCode , which has been proposed as a new alternative to replace Linnean classification and govern the application of names to clades. Many cladists do not see any need to depart from traditional nomenclature as governed by the ICZN, ICN, etc.

See also

Notes

  1. This is not considered as mandatory, however, as indicated by terms for non-monophyletic groupings ("invertebrates", "conifers", "fish", etc).

Related Research Articles

Clade A group of organisms that consists of a common ancestor and all its lineal descendants

A clade, also known as monophyletic group, is a group of organisms that consists of a common ancestor and all its lineal descendants. Rather than the English term, the equivalent Latin term cladus is often used in taxonomical literature.

Linnaean taxonomy A rank based classification system for organisms

Linnaean taxonomy can mean either of two related concepts:

  1. the particular form of biological classification (taxonomy) set up by Carl Linnaeus, as set forth in his Systema Naturae (1735) and subsequent works. In the taxonomy of Linnaeus there are three kingdoms, divided into classes, and they, in turn, into orders, genera, and species, with an additional rank lower than species.
  2. a term for rank-based classification of organisms, in general. That is, taxonomy in the traditional sense of the word: rank-based scientific classification. This term is especially used as opposed to cladistic systematics, which groups organisms into clades. It is attributed to Linnaeus, although he neither invented the concept of ranked classification nor gave it its present form. In fact, it does not have an exact present form, as "Linnaean taxonomy" as such does not really exist: it is a collective (abstracting) term for what actually are several separate fields, which use similar approaches.
Taxonomy (biology) The science of identifying, describing, defining and naming groups of biological organisms

In biology, taxonomy is the science of naming, defining (circumscribing) and classifying groups of biological organisms on the basis of shared characteristics. Organisms are grouped together into taxa and these groups are given a taxonomic rank; groups of a given rank can be aggregated to form a super-group of higher rank, thus creating a taxonomic hierarchy. The principal ranks in modern use are domain, kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, and species. The Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus is regarded as the founder of the current system of taxonomy, as he developed a system known as Linnaean taxonomy for categorizing organisms and binomial nomenclature for naming organisms.

A genus is a taxonomic rank used in the biological classification of living and fossil organisms, as well as viruses, in biology. In the hierarchy of biological classification, genus comes above species and below family. In binomial nomenclature, the genus name forms the first part of the binomial species name for each species within the genus.

Binomial nomenclature System of identifying species of organisms using a two-part name

Binomial nomenclature, also called binominal nomenclature or binary nomenclature, is a formal system of naming species of living things by giving each a name composed of two parts, both of which use Latin grammatical forms, although they can be based on words from other languages. Such a name is called a binomial name, a binomen, binominal name or a scientific name; more informally it is also called a Latin name.

Family is one of the eight major hierarchical taxonomic ranks in Linnaean taxonomy; it is classified between order and genus. A family may be divided into subfamilies, which are intermediate ranks between the ranks of family and genus. The official family names are Latin in origin; however, popular names are often used: for example, walnut trees and hickory trees belong to the family Juglandaceae, but that family is commonly referred to as being the "walnut family".

In biological classification, the order is

  1. a taxonomic rank used in the classification of organisms and recognized by the nomenclature codes. Other well-known ranks are life, domain, kingdom, phylum, class, family, genus, and species, with order fitting in between class and family. An immediately higher rank, superorder, may be added directly above order, while suborder would be a lower rank.
  2. a taxonomic unit, a taxon, in that rank. In that case the plural is orders.

The International Code of Phylogenetic Nomenclature, known as the PhyloCode for short, is a developing draft for a formal set of rules governing phylogenetic nomenclature. Its current version is specifically designed to regulate the naming of clades, leaving the governance of species names up to the rank-based Nomenclature codes.

Type (biology) Specimen(s) to which a scientific name is formally attached

In biology, a type is a particular specimen of an organism to which the scientific name of that organism is formally attached. In other words, a type is an example that serves to anchor or centralize the defining features of that particular taxon. In older usage, a type was a taxon rather than a specimen.

Evolutionary taxonomy, evolutionary systematics or Darwinian classification is a branch of biological classification that seeks to classify organisms using a combination of phylogenetic relationship, progenitor-descendant relationship, and degree of evolutionary change. This type of taxonomy may consider whole taxa rather than single species, so that groups of species can be inferred as giving rise to new groups. The concept found its most well-known form in the modern evolutionary synthesis of the early 1940s.

<i>Incertae sedis</i> Term to indicate an uncertain taxonomic position

Incertae sedis or problematica are terms used for a taxonomic group where its broader relationships are unknown or undefined. Alternatively, such groups are frequently referred to as "enigmatic taxa". In the system of open nomenclature, uncertainty at specific taxonomic levels is indicated by incertae familiae, incerti subordinis, incerti ordinis and similar terms.

Botanical nomenclature is the formal, scientific naming of plants. It is related to, but distinct from taxonomy. Plant taxonomy is concerned with grouping and classifying plants; botanical nomenclature then provides names for the results of this process. The starting point for modern botanical nomenclature is Linnaeus' Species Plantarum of 1753. Botanical nomenclature is governed by the International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants (ICN), which replaces the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature (ICBN). Fossil plants are also covered by the code of nomenclature.

Nomenclature codes or codes of nomenclature are the various rulebooks that govern biological taxonomic nomenclature, each in their own broad field of organisms. To an end-user who only deals with names of species, with some awareness that species are assignable to families, it may not be noticeable that there is more than one code, but beyond this basic level these are rather different in the way they work.

Evolutionary grade Non-monophyletic grouping of organisms united by morphological or physiological characteristics

In alpha taxonomy, a grade is a taxon united by a level of morphological or physiological complexity. The term was coined by British biologist Julian Huxley, to contrast with clade, a strictly phylogenetic unit.

In zoological nomenclature, the valid name of a taxon is the zoological name that is to be used for that taxon following the rules in the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN). In other words: a valid name is the correct zoological name of a taxon.

A conserved name or nomen conservandum is a scientific name that has specific nomenclatural protection. Nomen conservandum is a Latin term, meaning "a name to be conserved". The terms are often used interchangeably, such as by the International Code of Nomenclature for Algae, Fungi, and Plants (ICN), while the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature favours the term "conserved name".

In scientific nomenclature, a synonym is a scientific name that applies to a taxon that (now) goes by a different scientific name, although the term is used somewhat differently in the zoological code of nomenclature. For example, Linnaeus was the first to give a scientific name to the Norway spruce, which he called Pinus abies. This name is no longer in use: it is now a synonym of the current scientific name, Picea abies.

Phylogenetic nomenclature, often called cladistic nomenclature, is a method of nomenclature for taxa in biology that uses phylogenetic definitions for taxon names as explained below. This contrasts with the traditional approach, in which taxon names are defined by a type, which can be a specimen or a taxon of lower rank, and a description in words. Phylogenetic nomenclature is currently not regulated, but the International Code of Phylogenetic Nomenclature (PhyloCode) is intended to regulate it once it is ratified.

Taxonomic rank Level in a taxonomic hierarchy

In biological classification, taxonomic rank is the relative level of a group of organisms in a taxonomic hierarchy. Examples of taxonomic ranks are species, genus, family, order, class, phylum, kingdom, domain, etc.

This is a list of terms and symbols used in scientific names for organisms, and in describing the names. For proper parts of the names themselves, see glossary of scientific names. Note that many of the abbreviations are used with or without a stop.

References

  1. Quammen, David (June 2007). "A Passion for Order". National Geographic Magazine. Retrieved 27 April 2013.
  2. de Queiroz, K & J Gauthier (1990). "Phylogeny as a Central Principle in Taxonomy: Phylogenetic Definitions of Taxon Names" (PDF). Systematic Zoology. 39 (4): 307–322. doi:10.2307/2992353. JSTOR   2992353.
  3. Sylvain Adnet; Brigitte Senut; Thierry Tortosa; Romain Amiot, Julien Claude, Sébastien Clausen, Anne-Laure Decombeix, Vincent Fernandez, Grégoire Métais, Brigitte Meyer-Berthaud, Serge Muller (25 September 2013). Principes de paléontologie. Dunod. p. 122. ISBN   978-2-10-070313-5. La taxinomie s'enrichit avec l'invenition du mot «taxon» par Adolf Meyer-Abich, naturaliste allemand, dans sa Logik der morphologie, im Rahmen einer Logik der gesamten Biologie (1926) [Translation: Taxonomy is enriched by the invention of the word "taxon" by Adolf Meyer-Abich, German naturalist, in his Logik der morphologie, im Rahmen einer Logik der gesamten Biologie (1926).]CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  4. Meyer-Abich, Adolf (1926). Logik der Morphologie im Rahmen einer Logik der gesamten Biologie. Springer-Verlag. p. 127. ISBN   978-3-642-50733-5.
  5. Naik, V. N. (1984). Taxonomy of Angiosperms. Tata McGraw Hill, New Delhi, p. 2.
  6. ICZN (1999) International Code of Zoological Nomenclature. Glossary. International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature.