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Alicia Sanchez

HOW TO CLASSIFY? Read the passage and answer the questions which follow.
It has been suggested that only 1 in 10 of the plant and animal species in the world have been
described and classified. Hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of new species are discovered and
described every year.
When a new organism is discovered, it is given a binomial. Taxonomists attempt to describe its
morphological characteristics, so that other biologists will be able to recognize it, and distinguish
it from other similar organisms. Further studies, however, may be required before it can finally
be decided whether the organism is a truly new species, or simply a morphological variant of a
species which is already known and named.
A large majority of known species, and of the new ones being discovered, are insects. Of these,
the beetles make up by far the largest group; one on four of all known species are beetles. In one
study in a Panamanian rain forest, it was found that nine individuals of the tree Luehea
seemannii had 1200 species of beetles living on them, of which 163 species were estimated to be
found only on that species of tree. As the number of tropical rain forest species is about 50,000, it
was calculated that there could be 8,150,000 different species of beetles found on those trees.
Simply describing large numbers of species would produce an unmanageable list. To handle such
large quantities of data, taxonomists must classify species. The earliest systems of classification
were artificial. Plants, for example, can be classified as edible, medicinal or poisonous. Modern
classification systems now attempt to classify organisms in a hierarchical, phylogenetic manner.
1. Define the following terms:
a. binomial (line 4);
Binomial means having two names; this system is used to classify and name different animals
and plants. The first name will be the genus and the second name will be the species it belongs
b. hierarchical (line 18);
It means that the organisms are classified and ranked one above the other depending on their
status or authority.
2. When a new organism is discovered, further studies may be required before it can finally be
decided if it is a new species. Suggest what these studies might be. (Line 6)
These studies might include genetic tests, analysis of its ancestors and close observations, for
instance, to decide if it can breed with other species and produce fertile offspring.



Alicia Sanchez

3. In what way is a phylogenetic classification system better than an artificial one?

A phylogenetic classification is better than an artificial one because it is much more specific and
exact. Genes are a way of knowing the exact ancestry and properties of the plant, on the other
hand, classifying the plants by poisonous or edible, could lead to mistakes. Finally, different
specimens can sometimes have very similar physical appearances; genetic analysis could detect
small variations, however, artificial classification wouldnt differentiate between these species.
4. a. In the Panamanian rain forest study, what assumptions have been made in calculating that
there may be 8,150,000 different species of beetles living on rain forest trees? (Lines 13-14)
The assumptions that have been made are that all the trees have 1200 beetles living on them and
that the species of the trees studied are representative of the whole forest. Studying nine
individuals of a species doesnt give you enough information to estimate the number of species
in the entire forest.
b. Suggest one way in which this study could realistically be extended to give a more
reliable estimate of the number of beetle species in the rain forest.
This study could be extended by making an analysis of more individuals of the same species of
tree, because studying nine isnt enough and may give a biased result depending on the area of
the forest. Furthermore, it is important to look at other species of trees to prove that the data
collected can be generalized to all the different trees in the forest.