Learning to Look: Taxonomy - How Do Scientists Classify Life?
What is taxonomy?
Taxonomy (tax-on-ah-mee) is the science of naming, defining, and sorting groups of living things based on their characteristics. Scientists use taxonomy to understand nature - by making observations about living things, scientists are able to group similar living things together - helping us understand how all living things are related.
Lets Practice Taxonomy!
While exploring, a scientist discovers a new room in their house - and it’s overrun with animals! The scientist has never seen these animals before, and has a lot of questions. Some of the animals look very similar to one another, but others look COMPLETELY different! The scientist could study each animal individually, but they have a bigger question they want to answer - how are all of these animals related to each other?
The scientist counts 18 animals, and is able to gather them all together in a group. The best way to figure out how the animals are related is to sort them into smaller groups, based on their similarities.
Be the Scientist
What similarities and differences do you see in the animals?
What categories could you use to sort the animals into smaller groups?
There are no right or wrong answers!
Blue and Purple
More Than 4 Legs
Charts like these are called “cladograms” (clah-doh-grams), and they help scientists keep track of how all life is related.
Be the Scientist: Only some of the chart is filled out. Can you figure out the traits the scientist used to sort the rest of the animals?
Now it’s your turn!
Look around your house for something to sort - stuffed animals, candy, buttons, marbles, or anything else. Make observations about the similarities and differences in the objects - then sort! If it helps, make a chart to show how you sorted the objects. You'll need paper and a pencil or something else to write with.
Watch scientists at the Chicago Field Museum sort candy with Emily Graslie from TheBrainScoop!