YOU'RE THE SCIENTIST!
YOUR EVOLUTIONARY FAMILY TREE
STEP 3: BACKGROUND RESEARCH
To conduct my research, I did an internet search and discovered that an entire scientific discipline called phylogenetic systematics is dedicated to investigating questions just like mine about my relationships to other animals: phylogeny.
The word phylogeny comes from the Ancient Greek words phylon (meaning: tribe, genus, species) and genera (meaning: generation, production).
Phylogenetic systematics is the field within biology that reconstructs evolutionary histories and studies the patterns of relationships among organisms.
Scientists study living and extinct species and build phylogenetic trees, evolutionary trees that indicate the relatedness between and divergence of different groups of organisms.
The figure to the right is a phylogenetic tree. It shows the evolutionary relationships between many organisms and groups of organisms, like mammals, reptiles, birds, and mollusks!
I also encountered the word taxonomy, which is a scientific field dedicated to the naming and classification of biological organisms on levels like kingdom, order, genus, and species. As you can see in the figure to the right, the further you go down the upside down pyramid, the more specific the classifications become. For example, humans are in the kingdom Animalia, phylum Chordata, class Mammalia, order Primates, family Hominindae, genus Homo, and species Sapiens.
So, it turns out that I am a mammal and so is my dog, meaning we are both in the taxonomic group Mammalia, while frogs are in the taxonomic group Amphibia. I also found that previous research suggests that humans and dogs are more closely related to each other than either are to a frog.
Do some research on the different taxonomic groups of primates.
Primates are a taxonomic Order. Within this Order are two major subdivisions, Prosimians and Anthropoids. Prosimians and Anthropoids have notable differences in behavior and anatomy; however, due to their far greater similarities, they are nonetheless all classified as primates. So, it turns out that not all primates can be called “monkeys.” Please refer to Primate Facts to learn more about the biological order of primates. Make notes on the differences between the groups of primates in your Lab Notebook (at least 5 differences and/or similarities).
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