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How do you Say Porcupine Caribou in Science-speak?
Or...All Kingdoms Aren't Just for Kings

Did you know that scientists discovered a long time ago that they needed a universal language for talking about animals and plants? They created a system of naming called “taxonomy.” Taxonomy, a classification system that is now used throughout the scientific community looks complicated, but every living thing is classified using it. It is broken down into these categories::

  • kingdom
  • phylum (called, "division" with plants)
  • class
  • order
  • family
  • genus
  • species
  • subspecies

Taxonomy: Comparing a Human with a Porcupine Caribou
To build a better understanding of how this system of classification works let's take a look at 2 of our favorite Genus and species:

Homo sapien
(Our caribou Expert-
Don Russell)
Rangifer tarandus
(subspecies granti)

Human being
Porcupine caribou
(called "division" with plants)

(animals with backbones)

(animals with backbones)
(with hair, female makes milk)
(with hair, female makes milk)
(apes and monkeys)
(even-toed ruminants)
(with extinct Neanderthals, etc.)
(deer family)
(all reindeer and caribou)
(all existing caribou)
(barren-ground caribou-found in north- western North America - northern Yukon and Alaska)

First- Human Beings
At every step down the classification ladder, the thing that we are is narrowed down. At first we're just animals. Then the phylum grouping separates us from all animals without backbones, such as sponges, insects, and worms. Next we go on to the class, all mammals, from mice to humans, belong to the same class.
On down the ladder we go until we land at the species level; where we find the species, "sapiens," and that animal is us; Homo sapiens.

Next- the Porcupine Caribou
You can see that that people and caribou share kingdom, phylum, and class, but then caribou take a different route down the ladder. When we come to the order, people and caribou take separate paths. The caribou now finds itself in the order, artopdatyla- even-toed ruminants. A ruminant is an animal with hoofed feet, chews its cud and has a complex, many-chambered stomach. The Porcupine caribou is one of many subspecies of caribou.

It’s Not as Simple as This
In the old days we learned that all living things were either in the Kingdom for plants or animals. Many books today teach that 5 kinds of living things exist:

  • The kingdom "MONERA": bacteria and blue-green algae
  • The kingdom "PROTISTA": one-celled organisms
  • The kingdom of FUNGI: mushrooms, molds, etc.
  • The kingdom of PLANTS
  • The kingdom of ANIMALS

Today the fields of classification and taxonomy are undergoing a real revolution. As we have developed more advanced science technology we realize that putting all living things into just 5 categories is a simplification of what is really going on.

A Memory Tip:
Try this pneumonic device to remember the classification order of all living things. Say the sentence aloud,

Kings Play Chess On Fine Grained Sand.”

Think: Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species

The first letter of each word helps you remember the corresponding word in the classification ladder.