Saturday, 9 January 2016

Tree of Life, Introduction

[In Construction, because formatting is NO FUN AT ALL]

A vastly simplified taxonomy of animals, using modern Cladistic research and theories. (Probably really inaccurate.)

I made this because my biological knowledge is very limited and I wanted to learn a bit more. Then I discovered how the traditional Linnaean model is being affected by all the new research into DNA and became fascinated.

A summary, if you also are not up to date on breakthroughs in biology (and if you ARE, please forgive my my MANY MANY mistakes):

Linnaean taxonomy organises through biological similarities. Cladistic taxonomy organises by common ancestor, which I think are found by comparing various genetic markers of species thought to be related. Since cladistics are still pretty new, there's a lot of disagreement about how to organise things. Different researchers will compare different genetic markers and therefor come up with differing classifications. But it's COOL.

Because cladistics compares animals (and other living things) by common ancestor, cladistic taxonomies look a bit different. Basically, you slowly weed out species one at a time by finding common traits all but a few species have. Sometimes there will no common trait, so you'll instead get several groups and things look more traditional, but a lot of this tree is 'this category is all animals with a spine except lancets, which are very weird' or 'this category is all crocodile-like creatures except gharials, which are a little weird'.

(WARNING: do not look up lancets, they are TERRIFYING.)

Anyways, it took me a while to get used to how every rank usually had only 2 sub-ranks, one of which was tiny, and one of which was huge. And how, because everything is nested inside each other, major families of creatures are no longer at a similar depth into the tree. Instead, birds are nested inside of reptiles, and mammals are hidden in the deepest levels.

Because of this nested structure, I've decided to organise the pages of the taxonomy in a similar, nested way. Each page has 8 levels. The second page drops the first 4 outer levels of the page before and adds another 4 levels. The third page again drops the 4 outer levels (so now no categories from page 1 remain) and adds for new ones. Etc.

If it makes no sense, please give me advice (preferably through Tumblr: I know I don't always think in the most accessible way for others.


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