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 What is Taxonomy?

Taxonomy is the classification of organisms into different categories based on their characteristics. In the eighteenth century, Carl Linnaeus developed the Linnaean system of classification which is an ordered way of grouping similar organisms. The current classification system works kind of like a pyramid. At the top of the pyramid is all living things then there are various categories under each division. For example, the classification for humans is as follows.

Kingdom
Animalia

Phylum
Chordata

Class
Mammalia

Order
Primates

Family
Hominidae

Genus

Homo

Species

sapien

Water bears are distinct phylum,Tardigrada, within the phylum Animalia. By studying the appearance of your animal you will be able to identify to which genus your water bear belongs.

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How do I distinguish different tardigrades?

There are numerous features, including appearance and number of claws, that help distinguish different types of tardigrades. Two main divisions exist within the phylum; these are the class Heterotardigrada and Eutardigrada. The heterotardigrades have plates and cuticular extensions of the body. Eutardigrades are not armored.

Click here to see a diagram of a heterotardigrade and an eutardigrade.


How to use a taxonomic key.

The key on linked web pages has been designed to help you identify your water bear to the genus level. On each page are two different pictures of tardigrades. You will click on the one that most resembles your animal until you have reached the genus of your specimen. There are also be links connecting many words to a glossary. Be sure to click on any word you do not understand. Remember you can always hit the back button on your web browser if you think you clicked on the wrong picture.

 

Now that you are ready click here to go to the Taxonomic Key.

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Taxonomy
Website Authors: Karen Lindahl and Professor Susie Balser in affiliation
with Illinois Wesleyan University. Last revised 1 Oct. 1999.
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