Fossil Classification



Classification of Fossils

and all life for that matter


If you a pre-college took a course in biology or zoology or botany or entomology, etc., you already know about classification, unless you always slept through class. Whether life forms are extant or extinct (and, of course far and away most species that ever lived across geologic time are now extinct), they are biologically classified. Biological (scientific classification of life) has been ungoing unabated for what is approaching three centuries classification. Carolus Linnaeus deserves special mention for his work in the 18th century grouping species according to shared physical/morphological traits and characteristics. For example, his Systema Naturae (cover shown to left) was first printed in 1735 with 12 pages.Taxonomic Ranks Its its 10th edition published in 1758 classified some 4,400 animal species and 7,700 plant species. His approach laid the foundation, which a century later became more sophisticated as classification was guided by Darwin's concept of common descent by means of natural selection (evolution), even though the discovery of the molecular biology behind it based on DNA was still long in the future. One should always bear in mind that nothing in biology makes since except in the light of evolution.

The image to the right depicts the hierarchical classification schemes used today that has eight major taxonomic ranks, beginning with "all life" at the top, and decending down to individual species (both extinct and extant).


Example of fossil classification for trilobites:

Trilobite Classification
Trilobite Phylogeny
Phylum Arthropoda
Subphylum Chelicerata
or Subphylum Trilobitamorph
Superclass Arachnomorpha *
Class Trilobita

    Order Agnostida
    Order Redlichiida
    Order Corynexochida
    Order Phacopida
    Order Lichida
    Order Proetida
    Order Harpetida
    Order Ptychopariida
    Order Asaphida
    Order Odontopleurida **
    Order Nectaspida
o Arthropoda
`--o Trilobita
   `--+--o Redlichiida
      |  |--Olenellina
      |  `--Redlichiina
      `--o Librostoma
* Several alternative taxonomies are found in past and current literature. For example, trilobites are sometimes found placed in arthropoda subphylum Schizoramia within Superclass Arachnomorpha.
** Some trilobite workers argue that a separate Order Odontopleurida should be separated from Order Lichida, and the change is likely to be done by concensus.

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