Questions on the classification of biological organisms, and the methods used for classifying them.

learn more… | top users | synonyms

30
votes
6answers
4k views

Why isn't a virus “alive”?

The recent news about a new supermassive virus being discovered got me thinking about how we define viruses as non-living organisms whilst they are bigger than bacteria, and much more complex than we ...
22
votes
5answers
13k views

Do humans have enough biological differences to be grouped into races or subspecies?

After my online research on the subject, I learnt that, biologically speaking, many scientists believe that there is no such thing as a race. Homo sapiens as a species is only 200,000 years old, which ...
19
votes
6answers
2k views

Human evolution: Where *exactly* did the first human come from, whose parents were not?

Layman here. So I have never really quite understood this facet of human evolution, (or any other for that matter), in that, I understand the evolutionary process, but I get lost on the 'border' cases....
16
votes
3answers
2k views

Why are turtles classified as reptiles and not amphibians?

I understand that turtles are reptiles because like all reptiles, they have scales on their body. But turtles (specifically sea turtles) live on both land and water, very much like amphibians. Also, ...
14
votes
3answers
6k views

When has an organism evolved enough to be called a new species?

Imagine that we take a population of horses, split them in half and place them in completely different environments. The two species will evolve separate from each other and because the environment is ...
14
votes
2answers
190 views

How to decide which is the correct scientific name for a particular species

To start with, I am not a person having sound knowledge in biology. When I started my search for phyto-chemicals in a particular family in the plant kingdom, I got confused. The scientific papers use ...
12
votes
1answer
616 views

What is the scientific name of this plant?

I found this one on a hill here in Palestine. It's about 20 cm in height. Note that it does exist in this regions, but scantily.
11
votes
1answer
662 views

Dreadnoughtus: Why are new taxa named using Dog Latin?

Once upon a time, binomial nomenclature was expected to follow Latin rules: the genus had to be a noun and the species had to be an adjective that agreed with the genus according to Latin rules of ...
11
votes
1answer
119 views

To which distinctions does the term “hymenoptera” refer?

Hymenoptera is an order of insects that includes bees, ants, and wasps. A quick search gives the following etymological analysis of the term hymenoptera. hymen (membrane) + pteron (wing) Does ...
11
votes
2answers
124 views

Skull mystery on beach

The skull was found on a beach on the Sechelt inlet on Canada's pacific coast. A marine environment. What species is this skull from?
10
votes
2answers
502 views

When writing about past research should I use the species name they employed or the modern version?

I am currently writing a literature review in which I am talking about the old research on the subject. When this research was carried out the species I'm talking about were classed under a different ...
10
votes
3answers
2k views

Species with reproduction barriers that can both reproduce with a third species

To start with, I do not have a sound knowledge in biology or any formal education in the area. I was told that one of the definition of a species is a reproductive barrier, which means that if two ...
9
votes
1answer
393 views

Can scientists name themselves in the scientific name when they discover a new taxon?

There are sometimes people names in taxonomy, like Myotis keenii was names after Mr. Keen who contributed to discover the species. So, if you discover a species and someone else is constructing the ...
9
votes
2answers
159 views

Acknowledging differentiation of species, in historical times

This is at least partly an historical question, and I am not even remotely a biologist of any sort, so apologies beforehand if it's a little obscure. I often wonder how many distinctions were made in ...
9
votes
1answer
511 views

Is sexual reproduction outside the same biological family possible? Has it ever occured successfully?

Are there any examples of two species taxonomically classified in different biological families that have successfully hybridized and produced viable offspring? If not, is there an example of where ...
9
votes
1answer
4k views

Does the use of “var”, “x”, and/or “ssp” in a scientific name provide specific information?

What exactly does it mean when a plant has a scientific name that specifies a vairety, for example Nothofagus solandri var. cliffortioides, or when the name includes an "x", as in Populus ...
9
votes
1answer
182 views

Is it correct to regard archeaic humans (i.e.n Neanderthals and Denisovans) as distinct species to Homo sapiens?

There is increasing evidence (e.g. here) that Homo sapiens interbred with contemporary homonins such as Homo neanderthalensis and the "Denisovans". Although these homonins do show differences in their ...
8
votes
2answers
4k views

Why animals can move and plants cannot in general?

To clarify, I think the answer should be able to explain: What are animals? What are plants? What's the difference between animals and plants (How do biologists differentiate them, if they ...
8
votes
1answer
405 views

Regarding the kingdom Animalia, which phylogenic tree is more common: Molecular Comparisons or Body-Plan Grades

In the picture below, which I obviously do not own: it depicts two different phylogenic trees, one which is based on molecular comparisons and another one which is based on body-plan grades. My ...
8
votes
2answers
2k views

How many species did Carl Linnaeus classify?

How many species did Carl Linnaeus (senior) classify?
8
votes
2answers
892 views

Why is Portuguese man o' war considered a colony?

The wikipedia entry on the Portuguese man o' war says: ... the Portuguese man o' war is ... not actually a single multicellular organism but a colonial organism made up of many highly specialized ...
7
votes
2answers
591 views

Goats are so fearless but sheep are not. Is there any genetic difference responsible?

As you see in the picture goats (not only wild goats) are so fearless, but I never saw any sheep do this. What is the source of this difference in behavior?
7
votes
3answers
2k views

How many (taxonomic) families are there?

Approximately, how many families have been identified? I've often often come across figures for the total number of species on Earth. Recently, I found myself wondering about the encompassing ranks ...
7
votes
3answers
322 views

Insect identification: white spotted beetle

3 pairs of legs, a pair of antenna, wings absent, compound eye, 4-6 centimeter approx. in size. I found this beetle at my door, in Pune, India.
7
votes
2answers
621 views

Which phylum appeared most recently

I'm aware that our earliest records of many major animal and plant phyla come from the Cambrian or Precambrian periods, and I'm also vaguely aware of some of the objections raised with general concept ...
6
votes
2answers
208 views

Which species were first described by Charles Darwin?

There are many plants and animals named for the naturalist Charles Darwin, such as Darwin's Frog (Rhinoderma darwinii), but which were named by him? I'm finding it difficult to find such a list.
6
votes
3answers
515 views

Where can I find the common names for the zoology taxonomy?

Forgive me if my question does not belong here or if I'm using incorrect terms, but I'm not educated in biology at all. I'm investigating the workings of the biological classification system. I was ...
6
votes
1answer
287 views

If life is discovered on another planet, will it likely be classified using the current domain/kingdom/phylum system?

This may be a stupid question showing my lack of understanding of taxonomy, but I was wondering if the current classification system we use contains broad enough categories to include new life forms, ...
6
votes
1answer
130 views

On which date did the official name change of Lactobacillus sanfranciscensis change?

When did the change of official name from Lactobacillus sanfrancisco to Lactobacillus sanfranciscensis happen? An answer ((to the exact day OR within a few days) AND the name of the conference at ...
6
votes
2answers
45 views

Why was the cackling goose split off as a distinct species from the Canada goose in 2004?

According to Wikipedia, in 2004 the American Ornithologists' Union made the cackling goose a new species, splitting it away from the Canada goose. The British followed suit in 2005. What was the ...
6
votes
1answer
441 views

What is the scientific name of this evergreen plant?

This plant is found in India. It is an evergreen plant. Would love to know the scientific name.
6
votes
1answer
11k views

What is the proper format for genus and species names in latin?

When using the latin nomenclature for a fish in printed materials (such as Sander vitreus for walleye), what is the correct capitalization of each word? In this example, should 'S' be uppercase only,...
6
votes
1answer
104 views

How to determine whether a newly discovered dinosaur is not a young one and not an entirely different species?

Every once in a while, there is an official announce that a new species has been discovered. For example, paleontologists have recently discovered a dinosaur they named Nanuqsaurus hoglundi, which ...
6
votes
1answer
65 views

How do we know that ammonites are a kind of cephalopod rather than another type of mollusc?

On a recent fossil hunting trip, I found a small fossil that an expert identified for me as an ammonite beak. He told me such fossils are not uncommon, but are not normally found with their parent ...
6
votes
1answer
150 views

Could someone recommend a book for surveying species?

I'm trying to get/renew basic knowledge of species. Could someone recommend a book for surveying "important"/"representational" species? I am looking for a book with good illustrations and that covers ...
5
votes
2answers
2k views

Why is a slow worm not considered a snake?

Slow worms are considered lizards as opposed to snakes, both are reptiles. Now I get that there are traits that distinguish them (eye lids, ears ...). But snake species themselves vary already quite a ...
5
votes
2answers
1k views

Binomial nomenclature: Why am I seeing different genera with the same species name?

I have looked online but still do not understand how two organisms can have the the same species names but be in different genera? Do all genera share common species names? Also which would be more ...
5
votes
2answers
578 views

What does the 34/70 in Saccharomyces pastorianus Weihenstephan 34/70 stand for?

I've searched everywhere. No Wikipedia page. No information on NCBI. I searched all occurrences of 34/70 in some primary research articles! The best I've found is this brewery forum where someone ...
5
votes
2answers
65 views

What ways are there to determine how big genera are?

I want to look at genera as a whole, across the animal kingdom to determine the range of sizes of genera. I have examined species richness and genetic diversity (pairwise distance from sequence data ...
5
votes
1answer
160 views

How can this bird be identified? Can someone please identify this bird?

These photographs have been taken in Warora, India. Could someone please help identify this bird?
5
votes
1answer
1k views

What's the opposite of a thermophile?

Thermophiles, heat-loving organisms, have been a popular topic of research for decades due in large part to the utility of their enzymes in various chemical reactions (Taq Pol single-enzymedly made ...
5
votes
1answer
228 views

What is a subspecies?

Within a species there may be subspecies that are named using trinomial nomenclautre. For example the Grizzly Bear, Ursus arctos horribilis is a subspecies of the Brown Bear Ursus arctos. The ...
5
votes
1answer
51 views

Are prosauropods ancestors of all sauropods?

My daughter, while reading a book about dinosaurs, asked me if prosauropods are ancestors of all sauropods. Are they? From the name ("pro-sauropods"), I guess that they are, but am I right?
4
votes
1answer
245 views

What insect is this..?

Can anyone tell me what kind of insect (if it is one) is this...!! Or is it the pupa of some insect? Well I don't think that the whole big thing is the insect itself, it appears to be just a kind of ...
4
votes
2answers
750 views

Colourful aquatic animal identification

Of what species is the following creature? I expect it would be a Cephalopod living in not too deep water with a tropical climate (Brazil?). However, I can not find any information about what ...
4
votes
3answers
2k views

Polymorphism in cnidarians?

To me, the phenomenon of polymorphism in cnidarians is particularly troubling. I gather that it essentially refers to existence of various different forms or kinds of individuals, i.e. zooids and ...
4
votes
1answer
992 views

Are wild cats the same species as house cats?

I thought that the definition of species is "can interbreed" From Wikipedia: The wildcat (Felis silvestris) is a small cat found throughout most of Africa, Europe, and southwest and central ...
4
votes
2answers
217 views

Why are sponges sometimes not considered multicellular?

I read somewhere (I can't find where) that there is no scientific consensus whether sponges should be considered multicellular organisms. It seems I don't understand where is the line between ...
4
votes
1answer
718 views

Is a Ginkgo tree a conifer?

I know Ginkgo is a gymnosperm, but I was wondering whether Ginkgo is also technically a conifer. I did a Google search, and found several confident authoritative-sounding answers. Unfortunately, those ...
4
votes
1answer
109 views

Identifying flying insect from northern Poland / Baltic Sea area

Found during this year vacations at Baltic Sea (northern parts of Poland): I don't have a picture containing other object, for size verification, but I'd say, that it was 3-4 cm long. There were ...