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What is Systematics?

Systematics is the science of naming species and of recovering the relationships between species. In short, systematics describes and analyses Earth's biodiversity. Systematics is a combination of taxonomy and phylogenetic analysis.

Taxonomy is the science of discovering, describing and classifying groups or 'taxa' usually at the species level.

Phylogenetic analysis is the science of recovering the evolutionary relationships, or phylogeny, amongst a group of taxa usually species.

Examining the relationships (or systematics) of species is important, particularly if we are to name species, as we want these groups to reflect the evolution, or phylogeny, of the groups. The aims of a good naming system are that it is explicit (identifies only one group), stable (does not change every time a new study is done), universal (the species name applies everywhere) and evolutionary (the group has arisen from a recent common ancestor).

How is systematics used?

As we develop this site, the following topics will be linked to pages with explainations and examples as to how systematics can be used in these fields:

  • biogeography
  • conservation
  • early identification of alien species
  • earth history and global change
  • electronic data bases
  • ethnobiology
  • evolutionary theory
  • genetic diversity
  • genetic resources
  • history of the biota
  • human impacts
  • integrative role of systematics in all biology
  • international cooperation, molecular biology
  • primary classification, public education
  • resource management
  • systematics
  • surveys and inventories