How Are Plants and Animals Classified?

Plants and animals are classified based upon their prevailing characteristics and traits. Biological organisms with similar characteristics are placed in the same group. The order of classification goes from the kingdom of the biological life form down to the genus and species of the organism. The five kingdoms are animals, plants, protists, fungi and moneran.

In descending order, organisms are placed in a kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus and then species. The kingdom denotes the largest and most general group. The phylum narrows down the general group a little farther, all the way down to the genus and species.

The classification system is based upon Latin names. The scientific classification of human beings, from kingdom to species, follows: animalia, chordata, vertebrata, mammalia primata, hominidae and then “homo sapiens.” Chordates are animals with a spinal cord. Vertebrates have backbones protecting the spinal cord. Mammals have fur and give live birth. Primates have opposable thumbs and can walk upright. Hominids include gorillas, orangutans, chimpanzees and humans, all of which have larger brains than other primates.

The scientific classification system of biological life forms was invented by Swedish botanist Carl von Linne, or Carolus Linnaeus in Latin. Linnaeus began his work in 1735. The scientific names of animals are listed by their genus and species together with the genus name capitalized, hence humans are “Homo sapiens.”