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What is the modern system of classification in biology?

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Quick Answer

In modern biology, there are three approaches to classifying organisms: systematics, cladistics and molecular evolutionary taxonomy. They are all based on organisms' relation to each other, but use different indicators to assign the degree of relationship.

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Modern taxonomy, or classification system, originated in the 18th century, from the works of a Swedish botanist Carolus Linnaeus. He classified living beings based on similarities between them. Organisms which could interbreed were put in one species. There are levels of organization above species: genus, to which a number of closely-related species belong, a family, which consists of related genera, and order, which includes similar families. Class, phylum and kingdom are the three subsequent top levels of the system. These large groups can include sub-groups, for example, subphylum, or be a part of a supergroup, for example, a superclass.

When Carolus Linnaeus was developing his system, evolution had not been a scientific fact yet. Once scientists started studying how different organisms are related to each other based on a common ancestor they share, classification has also moved on. The phylogenetic classification system, or systematics, lists clades of organisms, organized into right-angled diagrams, which have a common ancestor. In cladistics, the separation is made at the point when a trait, which makes a particular species unique, arises. It can be, for example, upright walking for humans. A similar system of molecular evolutionary taxonomy focuses on the emergence of genetic differences between species.

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    A:

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