Animal classification is the process of categorizing animals into different groups based on their characteristics. There are several different ways to classify animals, including their physical characteristics, habitat, behavior, and genetic makeup. In this lesson, we will explore the basic concepts of animal classification, including the main groups of animals and their characteristics.
Major Animal Groups
There are many different animal groups, but some of the most important and well-known groups include:
Mammals: Animals that have hair, mammary glands, and three middle ear bones. Mammals include humans, dogs, cats, elephants, and many more.
Birds: Animals that have feathers, wings, and a beak. Birds include eagles, owls, penguins, and more.
Reptiles: Animals that have scales, lay eggs, and are ectothermic (rely on external sources of heat to regulate their body temperature). Reptiles include snakes, lizards, crocodiles, and turtles.
Amphibians: Animals that have smooth skin and undergo metamorphosis from a water-breathing to an air-breathing form. Amphibians include frogs, toads, and salamanders.
Fish: Animals that live in water and have fins, gills, and scales. Fish include sharks, rays, and bony fish.
Insects: Animals that have six legs, wings, and a segmented body. Insects include ants, bees, butterflies, and more.
Arachnids: Animals that have eight legs and two body segments. Arachnids include spiders, scorpions, and ticks.
Levels of Classification
Animal classification uses a hierarchical system that includes several levels, each more specific than the last. The levels of classification, from most general to most specific, are:
Kingdom: The first and broadest level of classification. Animals belong to the Kingdom Animalia, which includes all multicellular organisms that are heterotrophic (cannot produce their food).
Phylum: The second level of classification, which is more specific than the kingdom. Animals are divided into different phyla based on their physical characteristics, such as the presence or absence of a backbone or exoskeleton.
Class: The third level of classification, which is more specific than the phylum. Animals within a phylum are divided into different classes based on shared physical characteristics and behaviors.
Order: The fourth level of classification, which is more specific than the class. Animals within a class are divided into different orders based on their anatomy, reproductive system, and other characteristics.
Family: The fifth level of classification, which is more specific than the order. Animals within an order are divided into different families based on their physical and behavioral characteristics.
Genus: The sixth level of classification, which is more specific than the family. Animals within a family are divided into different genera based on shared physical characteristics and evolutionary history.
Species: The most specific level of classification. Animals within a genus are divided into different species based on their ability to reproduce and produce viable offspring.
Characteristics of Animals
Animals can be classified based on their physical characteristics, behavior, and genetic makeup. Some of the main characteristics that are used to classify animals include:
Body Type: Animals can be classified based on their body type, such as the presence or absence of a backbone, the number of legs they have, or their body shape.
Habitat: Animals can be classified based on where they live, such as in the ocean, on land, or in the air.
Diet: Animals can be classified based on what they eat, such as herbivores, carnivores, or omnivores.
Behavior: Animals can be classified based on their behavior, such as whether they are social or solitary, active during the day or night, or migratory.