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Biological systematics is the study of the diversification of living forms, both past and present, and the relationships among living things through time. Relationships are visualized as evolutionary trees (synonyms: cladograms, phylogenetic trees, phylogenies). Phylogenies have two components: branching order (showing group relationships) and branch length (showing amount of evolution). Phylogenetic trees of species and higher taxa are used to study the evolution of traits (e.g., anatomical or molecular characteristics) and the distribution of organisms (biogeography). Systematics, in other words, is used to understand the evolutionary history of life on Earth.

In the study of biological systematics, researchers use the different branches to further understand the relationships between differing organisms. These branches are used to determine the applications and uses for modern day systematics.

Biological systematics classifies species by using three specific branches. Numerical systematics, or biometry, uses biological statistics to identify and classify animals. Biochemical systematics classifies and identifies animals based on the analysis of the material that makes up the living part of a cell—such as the nucleus, organelles, and cytoplasm. Experimental systematics identifies and classifies animals based on the evolutionary units that comprise a species, as well as their importance in evolution itself. Factors such as mutations, genetic divergence, and hybridization all are considered evolutionary units.[1]

With the specific branches, researchers are able to determine the applications and uses for modern-day systematics. These applications include:

John Lindley provided an early definition of systematics in 1830, although he wrote of "systematic botany" rather than using the term "systematics".[2]

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:[3]

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.

Taxonomy, systematic biology, systematics, biosystematics, scientific classification, biological classification, phylogenetics: At various times in history, all these words have had overlapping, related meanings. However, in modern usage, they can all be considered synonyms of each other.

This page was last edited on 28 January 2018, at 22:36 (UTC).
Reference: under CC BY-SA license.

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