Pocket Genius Science: The living world – Classifying life

Facts At Your Fingertips: The living world – Classifying life

To study the wide range of life on Earth, scientists group together living things that have similar characteristics.

There are different levels of groups, depending on how similar the life-forms are. The broadest level is a kingdom, such as animals.

All animals are then divided into smaller and smaller groups until a single species is identified.

What is a species?

A species is a group of very similar living things that usually breed with one other. Each species is identified by a scientific name.

The European larch tree has the scientific name Larix decidua. It belongs to a family of trees called Pinaceae, which all produce cones.

Class: Mammals

A class is a large group within a phylum. Mammals are warm-blooded vertebrates that feed their young on milk.

Phylum: Chordates

Within the animal kingdom are 35 phyla (plural of phylum). The phylum Chordates contains vertebrates—animals with a backbone.

Kingdom: Animals

The largest group is a kingdom. The animal kingdom contains all the animals in the world.

Species: Canis lupis

The gray wolf is the largest species in the family Canidae. Its scientific name is Canis lupis.

Genus: Canis

Families contain different genera (plural of genus). The genus Canis contains 10 species, including wolves and domestic dogs.

Family: Canidae

Within the order of carnivores, the family Canidae contains all doglike mammals.

Order: Carnivores

A class is divided into orders. The order of carnivores contains mammals that eat meat.