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Fossils and living organisms are classified according to an international system of nomenclature. The classification system was devised by the Swedish researcher Linnaeus, and published in 1758. Ever since this system is used for all botanical and zoological nomenclature, fossils included.
The classification is based on a hierarchical categories. The primary categories in the systematic nomenclature:
---- Kingdom (Regnum)
------ Phylum -------- Class (Classis) ---------- Order (Ordo) ------------ Family (Familia) -------------- Genus ---------------- Species
Also subformats like sub- and super- are sometimes used (e.g. subfamily).
This classification reflects the kinship between species, and is mainly based on morphological, anatomical, physical and chemical properties. The emergence of genetics allowed for much more accurate classification based on genetic similarities, in particular for extant species. DNA does not survive the fossilisation process and this accurate genetic analysis cannot be carried out on fossil remains. New insights in evolutionary biology and paleo-ecology however, combined with better analytical techniques, often contribute to changes and further refinement of taxonomic classification.
The taxonomic classification is therefore a systematic classification of life (both extant and extinct) in hierarchical groups, based on their degree of similarity, which should include a degree of relatedness. When such a classification is based on genetic similarity it is called a phylogenetic tree.
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