What are taxons and taxonomy?

Taxons are the names we give to all living beings. An animal or a plant can have many different names representing different levels of detail from the more general to the more specific. Taxonomy is the branch of science that deals with this classification and naming.

Sealife Collection uses 7 or 8 levels of classification, from the more general level “Kingdom” and moving down with increasing precision to “Phylum”, “Class”, “Order”, “Family”, “Genus” and “Species”. In some cases there is a lower level, the “SubSpecies”.

To give an example, “tuna” is the English vernacular (or common) name for the species, and Thunnus thynnus is the binomial scientific name of the species. The first part of the scientific name is the genus, in this case Thunnus. The genus Thunnus and 14 other genera belong to the family Scombridae. The family Scombridae and 163 more families belong to the order Perciformes. They belong to the class Actinopterygii. Those belong to the phylum Chordata. And Chordata are a group belonging to the Kingdom Animalia. Each of these classifications is a taxon, and taxons have a scientific name such as Actinopterygii, and usually a common or vernacular name (Actinopterygii = Ray-finned fish).
Taxonomy uses many more levels like Subphyla or Superfamilies, but we have kept to the most common ones for the sake of simplicity. Sometimes this simplicity makes it harder to find some groups in our search engine. For example, the crustaceans are a Subphylum of the Phylum Arthropoda, and can be found in our general taxonomy search but won’t be found in our Upload page, as there we only accept taxons at the standard 8 levels (Subphyla are not included).

Taxonomy is a very complex element of our database, and is a continuously evolving system of classification. For this reason we update our taxonomy daily, in cooperation with our partner the World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS), the only world organisation that coordinates the taxonomy of our planet’s marine species.