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Title: Systematics  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Evolutionary biology, Biology, Zoology, Outline of biology, Systematic Biology
Collection: Biological Classification, Evolutionary Biology
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


A comparison of phylogenetic and phenetic concepts

Biological systematics is the study of the diversification of living forms, both past and present, and the biogeography). Systematics, in other words, is used to understand the evolutionary history of life on Earth.


  • Definition and relation with taxonomy 1
  • Taxonomic characters 2
  • See also 3
  • References 4
    • Notes 4.1
    • Further Reading 4.2
  • External links 5

Definition and relation with taxonomy

John Lindley provided an early definition of systematics in 1830, although he wrote of "systematic botany" rather than using the term "systematics".[1]

In 1970 Michener et al. defined "systematic biology" and "taxonomy" (terms that are often confused and used interchangeably) in relationship to one another as follows:[2]

Systematic biology (hereafter called simply systematics) is the field that (a) provides scientific names for organisms, (b) describes them, (c) preserves collections of them, (d) provides classifications for the organisms, keys for their identification, and data on their distributions, (e) investigates their evolutionary histories, and (f) considers their environmental adaptations. This is a field with a long history that in recent years has experienced a notable renaissance, principally with respect to theoretical content. Part of the theoretical material has to do with evolutionary areas (topics e and f above), the rest relates especially to the problem of classification. Taxonomy is that part of Systematics concerned with topics (a) to (d) above.

The term "systematics" is sometimes used synonymously with "taxonomy", and may be confused with "scientific classification". Webster's 9th New Collegiate Dictionary of 1987 treats "classification", "taxonomy", and "systematics" as synonymous. According to this work the terms originated in 1790, c. 1828, and in 1888 respectively. Some claim systematics alone deals specifically with relationships through time, and that it can be synonymous with phylogenetics, broadly dealing with the inferred hierarchy of organisms, which means it would be as subset of taxonomy as it is sometimes regarded, but the inverse is claimed by others.

Europeans tend to use the terms "systematics" and "biosystematics" for the field of the study of biodiversity as a whole, whereas North Americans tend to use "taxonomy" more frequently.[3] However, taxonomy, and in particular extinct and with extant organisms.

Systematics uses taxonomy as a primary tool in understanding organisms, as nothing about an organism's relationships with other living things can be understood without it first being properly studied and described in sufficient detail to identify and classify it correctly. Scientific classifications are aids in recording and reporting information to other scientists and to laymen. The systematist, a scientist who specializes in systematics, must, therefore, be able to use existing classification systems, or at least know them well enough to skilfully justify not using them.

molecular biology and of computer programs to study organisms.

Taxonomic characters

Taxonomic characters provide the evidence from which relationship (the phylogeny) between taxa is inferred. [5] Kinds of taxonomic characters:[6]

See also



  1. ^ Wilkins, J. S. What is systematics and what is taxonomy?. Available on
  2. ^ Michener, Charles D., John O. Corliss, Richard S. Cowan, Peter H. Raven, Curtis W. Sabrosky, Donald S. Squires, and G. W. Wharton (1970). Systematics In Support of Biological Research. Division of Biology and Agriculture, National Research Council. Washington, D.C. 25 pp.
  3. ^ Brusca, R. C., & Brusca, G. J. (2003). Invertebrates (2nd ed.). Sunderland, Mass. : Sinauer Associates, p. 27
  4. ^  
  5. ^ Mayr, Ernst (1991). Principles of Systematic Zoology. New York: McGraw-Hill, p. 159.
  6. ^ Mayr, Ernst (1991), p. 162.

Further Reading

  • Schuh, Randall T. and Andrew V. Z. Brower. 2009. Biological Systematics: Principles and Applications, 2nd edn. ISBN 978-0-8014-4799-0
  • Simpson, Michael G. 2005. Plant Systematics. ISBN 978-0-12-644460-5

External links

  • Society of Australian Systematic Biologists
  • Society of Systematic Biologists
  • Willi Hennig Society
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