The biological systematics of the Zebra Finch (Taeniopygia guttata castanotis)

In classifying books and other works about our fauna and flora nature-lovers repeatedly have to face scientific names of species: Sometimes two, some other time three unknown scientific terms are used for an animal or plant species, and occasionally the author contents himself with a single name, meaning the "genus". The Latin and Greek names are based on a a science called "Taxonomy", the biological systematics internationally common in zoology and botany. The Zebra Finch is to serve as an example to explain it.

Technical Terms
Taxonomy: Biological systematics, science of the hierarchic classification of plants and animals in their presumed natural relationships according to their evolution.
Taxonomist: Scientist who classifies ("taxes") creatures
Category: Level in the hierarchy of the biological system, i.e. the species, genus, family e.g.
Taxon: Example or entity in a category, e. g. a certain (!) genus etc., the class Aves or the family Estrildidae e.g. (plural: taxa)

Biological Systematics

The systematic, taxonomical classification of the "animal kingdom" (Regnum) into the various catergories starts with the "phyla":
    The ancient "phylum" (Phylum) of the "chordates" (Chordata) or the "subphylum" of the "vertebrates" (Vertebrata) respectively produced the "classes" of the various fishes, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals. All feathered creatures are united in a class (Classis), because all recent and extinct bird species are derived from a common prototype, which itself goes back to small bipedal dinosaurs. The primeval bird from Solnhofen (Archaeopteryx) gives us a rough idea of what the ancestors of the birds (Aves) may have looked like. Further primeval forms – presumably even missing links between the birds and their ancestors – were discovered in China at the end des 20th century.

Taxon EnglishTaxon scientif.Zebra Finch EnglishZebra Finch scientificExamples of other
other animals
RealmRegnum AnimalsAnimalia
PhylumPhylum ChordateChordata Sponges, cnidarians, arthropds, molluscs, echinoderms
SubphylumSub-Phylum VertebratesVertebrata Tunicates, Acrania
ClassClassis BirdsAves Jellyfish, arachnids, crustaceans, millipedes, insects, bony fishes, reptiles, mammals
SubclassSub-Classis Recent or "Modern" BirdsNeornithes Largely-winged insects, marsupials, placental mammals
OrderOrdo Passerines *Passeriformes Scorpions, dipterans, hymenopterons, minnows, parrots, ducks & geese, insectivorous and fruit bats, primates
SuborderSub-Ordo Song birdsPasseres or Oscines Thread-horns (Gnats), crocodiles, lizards, bee-eaters, flying foxes, bats, monkeys, rats and mice
FamilyFamilia EstrildidsEstrildidae Yellow Jackets, bees, whitefish, lizards, cockatoos, flycatchers & thrushes, titmice, bullfinches & goldfinches etc., buntings, horseshoe-bats, mice
SubfamilySub-Familia Hornets, pythons, pigmy falcons, Blunt-tailed Parrots, Lories
GenusGenus Zebra FinchesTaeniopygia Poecile titmice, grass finches, budgies, grass parrots (Neophema), rosellas
SpeciesSpecies Zebra FinchT. guttata Oxeye tit, Long-tailed grassfinch, Masked grassfinch, budgy
SubspeciesSub-Spezies Timor Zebra FinchT. guttata guttata Australian Zebra Finch:
Taeniopygia guttata castanotis

* A lot of taxonomists call the order Passeriformes "songbirds"!

Bezzel, Einhard (1977): Ornithologie. Ulmer, Stuttgart.
Wolters, H. E. (1983): Die Vögel Europas im System der Vögel. Biotropic-Verlag, Baden-Baden.

English  deutsch  nederlandse © 01/11/1998 nach oben Biology