Glossary Term: Systematics

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. “Systematic biology” and “taxonomy” (terms that are often confused and used interchangeably) were defined in relationship to one another as follows: Systematic biology (hereafter called simply systematics) is the field that (a) provides scientific names for organisms, (b) describes them, © 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.

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Created: 2019-07-08 10:03:21 PDT (-0700)
Last modified: 2019-07-08 10:03:21 PDT (-0700)