What is Animal Classification?

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Wendy McDougal

Wendy has taught high school Biology and has a master's degree in education.

Animal classification is a system of grouping animals by their similar characteristics. How are animals classified, and why is this important? Dive into this lesson to learn more.

What Is Classification?

Do you think you have anything in common with a squid, a housefly, or an elephant? In looks alone, you would probably say absolutely not! However, you do indeed have something in common with these creatures and millions of others roaming the earth: you are all classified as animals. What does classification mean, and how is used to organize and identify the animals of the world?

Classification means to organize things according to common characteristics. For example, you might classify clothes in your closet. Do you have your shirts in one area, pants in another, with socks and underwear together? This means you have organized, or classified, them. How about kitchen items? If you have forks grouped together, as well as knives and spoons, they are indeed classified.

But why is it important to classify animals? There are so many animals in the world, it would be nearly impossible to keep track of them all if they were not organized into groups. So, hundreds of years ago, a scientist named Carolus Linnaeus developed a system to categorize and identify animals according to their common traits.

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  • 0:04 What Is Classification?
  • 1:11 Classification Categories
  • 1:53 Kingdom & Phylum
  • 2:15 Class, Order & Family
  • 2:38 Genus & Species
  • 3:07 Lesson Summary
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Classification Categories

According to the system set up by Linnaeus, all animals are classified into seven categories: kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, and species. That's a lot to remember! Try making up your own phrase to help remember the first letter of each word, like this common one:

King Philip Came Over For Great Spaghetti

So, what do all of these words mean? Let's take a walk through each category, classifying a human as our example. It's important to know that these groups start out very large, and branch into smaller categories as we go. Imagine a tree, with one single trunk dividing into many different branches.

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