Animal of the Week: PRE – Vol 1

Patrick Barnette

This is the first installment of a new series only available at the Dig: Animal of The Week. It should really be called animal of the every-other-week, but I digress. I’m sure you’re already excited.

We will be exploring whatever animal I find interesting on any given day. Hopefully, some are ones you have never heard of before, or you can just learn something cool you didn’t know. Maybe, this segment will even stimulate your neglected imagination which has been slowly sucked out of you by school. 

This is the preliminary, preparatory issue of Animal of The Week. Before we get into our first animal, I’m going to give a brief introduction to a biological concept that will help you understand the series better. Nothing complicated, but it is a good thing to point back to if anybody gets confused.

Today, we’re looking at some simple biological classification hierarchy (otherwise known as taxonomic ranking). 

To make their lives easier, scientists use ranking systems to organize every living thing on earth into groups that become continuously more specific. There are many ways to do this, but in the most universal one, there are 8 levels to the hierarchy: Domain, Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Class, Family, Genus, and finally, Species. This hierarchy works to categorize organisms into groups based on what we know about their evolution, as well as their significant physical characteristics. “Domain” is the highest and broadest ranking, containing only three groups. This is in comparison to “Species”, the lowest ranking, of which there are ~1,744,204 in existence at the time of writing this.

For what we will be talking about, all we really need to know is what a family, a genus, and a species is. (Maybe very rarely I will mention one of the other ones.) 

Humans, for example, are a species. Specifically, we are Homo sapiens, a classification that falls within the genus Homo. Other members of this genus you may have heard of are Homo erectus and Homo neanderthalensis. As we go up, our genus Homo falls into the Hominid family, which contains the genera of our not-too-distant gorilla and chimp cousins, as well as orangutans. 

I decided to begin this series with this article because it will enhance the reader’s ability to understand future installments. It can get a little confusing at times, so we’re going to play it safe and leave this here. 

If you’re even reading this, join me next time to actually talk about some animals.

Image Credit:

https://humanorigins.si.edu/evidence/human-fossils/species/homo-habilis