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  • Rights: The University of Waikato
    Published 14 April 2009, Updated 25 June 2018 Referencing Hub media

    Dr Peter Buchanan and Dr Robert Hoare, of Landcare Research NZ Ltd, introduce the classification system that scientists use to identify and name organisms.


    Living things come in a great range of size and shape and form, and it’s really important that we can have some sort of system of finding information about all of these different organisms. There is literally millions of these organisms on this earth, and as a way of trying to categorise the information about them, we need names for those organisms so that we then can catalogue all of the information according to how organisms are related together and how they have developed through evolutionary time. Our naming system dates back to a very famous scientist called Linnaeus who came up with this idea of a genus name, a species name – two names for different kinds of organisms.

    The Linnaean system of classification has grown up over the last 250 years. We need to be able to communicate internationally about these various different creatures and plants, so those names need to be standardised internationally. And also, of course, it’s not just a matter of naming things, but we need to be able to group them together in ways that make sense. So it’s rather like, you know, if you go into a book shop, for example, because the books are organised into the crime section and the poetry section, you can find what you are looking for, and the same with studying living things.

    Birgit E Rhode, Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research
    Steve Reekie

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