What is classification?

Find out about animal classification, taxonomy and systematics.

The Australian Museum specialises in taxonomic and systematic research. Taxonomy and systematics comprise the describing, naming and classifying of plants and animals, and studying their origins and interrelationships. This type of research is essential for environmental assessments. It forms the basic building blocks of the study of nature, and is a key science on which many others depend.

Levels of classification

Taxonomists classify all organisms into a hierarchy, and give them standardized names, that are often Latin or Greek, or derived from other languages and even people's names. There are seven main levels of classification in the hierarchy. They are, from the most to the least inclusive:

  • kingdom
  • phylum (pl. phyla) for animals or division for algae, fungi and plants
  • class
  • order
  • family
  • genus (pl. genera)
  • species

There are several more levels of classification within this hierarchy that can further differentiate between groups of organisms, with some being specific to certain groups.

Ondine Evans , Web Researcher/Editor
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