About Taxonomy!

What are the main uses of Taxonomy ? How does it help ?

Wow, that’s a broad question.

At the simplest level, it satisfies what seems to be a basic human wish to give names to things. Common names are still a form of taxonomy. It is evident that a Canada Goose is different than a Bison, and more so with observation that a Swainson’s and a Grey-cheeked Thrush are different so what do we call them and how do we group them.

It helps define relationships within and between species.

At a deep scientific level, it helps work out molecular and evolutionary links and history for different species.

It’s a great argument starter, as someone once said, lock 5 taxonomists in a room with a new specimen for 48 hours and they’ll emerge having given it 7 different names.


@cmcheatle offered a fairly succinct explanation. Taxonomy does not have a use, per se. It is a way of categorizing relationships between organisms, and defining what features a specific organism has that makes it different from a similar one. Most folks around the world go through life with no need to even think about taxonomy. Some of us like to categorize things, understand larger relationships between life forms. We derive satisfaction from this, and in a sense, that’s all that matters.
But @cmcheatle also touched on something important - humans have a need to give names to things, to organize things into something that makes sense to us. We generally don’t do well with randomness, chaos. So ‘Bird’ is a general category for flying things, but people who see birds know that all birds are not the same. There are small birds, big birds, birds that like water and so on. Essentially that is the beginning of a taxonomy. I hope this is helpful, but while it is a simple question, the answer is rather complicated!


Thank you for the answer ma’am/sir. Thanks for the help

Taxonomy is supposed to represent phylogeny.

In other words, the way things are classified is supposed to represent the way they evolved in terms of what is related to what.

So taxonomy is not a random convenience of naming things; instead it is supposed to show what is actually related to what, and in what way.

All the species within one genus evolved from a common ancestor. All the different genera within one family evolved from a common ancestor. And so on.


That’s certainly the current idea – but it’s always worth remembering that our taxonomic system (and many of the names we still use) predate the widespread acceptance of evolution even among biologists. So while it’s a worthwhile goal, it’s probably a mistake to assume we’ve reached it in any particular case.


It is the theory and practice of classification in biology; learning about the principles and methods of biological classification, in particular knowledge about creating and describing systematic units (taxa) and including them in the system of taxonomic categories; without taxonomy, there is no nomenclature, that is, rules for creating and applying systematic names in biology. Taxonomy is extremely crucial in scientific biology!


Scientific taxonomy, yes. But there are also folk taxonomies – perfectly valid for their intended purposes – which do not have this premise.

Carol Kaisuk Yoon wrote Naming Nature: the Conflict Between Instinct and Science, in which she explored the idea that a main reason that most people think that they know nothing about nature is that we are nowadays given to believe that only science is right. But if we disabuse ourselves of that notion, we find that most of us know more about nature than we thought – just not necessarily scientifically.


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