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Insect Classification

Summary: Insect classification. What's the big deal. That's a bug! That's a big bug! That's a big brown bug and that's a big brown bug with a stinger. See! It's easy.

I must have fallen asleep in my high school biology class because insect classification has never been my strong suit. In fact, I feel like I've been left behind when my peers start talking Latin. I say termites and they say Reticulitermes flavipes. I say cockroaches and they say Blattella germanica. I say pavement ant and they say Tetramorium caespitum. Man! Where did I go wrong?

So, why isn't it okay to yell œThere's a roach on the table rather than acting all highbrow and saying, œPardon me. Isn't that blattella germanica loitering near the bread dish? I mean, who said that we had to name everything using a defunct language?

As it turns out, a Swedish fellow named Carl Linne, born in 1707, loved two things dearly. He was goo-goo over his gardens and surrounding fields and he was gaa-gaa over the Latin language. So much so, for the latter, that he changed his name to the Latin version and was foreverafter known as Carolus Linnaeus. Because of his work classifying all things botanical and zoological, he became known as the founder of modern taxonomy.

Good old Carolus followed an idea first thought up by Aristotle. He classified all animals and plants within groups, sometimes known as hierachical ordering. He broke down the classification into seven groups which flowed from the the first and broadest group known as the Kingdom, and categorizing each plant or animal, each step becoming more specific from phylum, to class, to order, to family, to genus, and finally to species. Since his time, additional sub-groups have been added, thus confusing me even more.

Eventually, Linnaeus found that he could name every species using only 'two words', thus inventing the binomial system of naming creatures, or binary nomenclature. He claimed that it was easy to remember binomial names that would identify and characterize and he was right, because his system is still used to this very day. In Latin, no less.

Let's look at how humans fit into Linnaeus' classification.

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Subphylum: Vertebrata
  • Superclass: Tetrapoda
  • Class: Mammalia
  • Subclass: Theria
  • Infraclass: Eutheria
  • Cohort: Unguiculata
  • Order: Primata
  • Suborder: Anthropoidea
  • Superfamily: Hominoidae
  • Family: Hominidae
  • Subfamily: Homininae
  • Genus: Homo
  • Subgenus: Homo (Homo)
  • Specific epithet: sapiens

The binomial name would therefore be Homo sapiens.

So this Animalia from the Kingdom, who was a Chordata from the Phylum, who as a member of  Vertebrata, etcetera, etcetera, walks into a bar and says, œHey bartender, have you heard the one about the duck, who was an Animalia from the Kingdon, who was¦¦etcetera.

Linnaeus got married, probably had a few Linnaeusae (whatever) and never stopped classifying things. He even named minerals and gave diseases a try. Pretty fun guy at a party, I'm sure. Like I was saying. I'm just an easy-going guy who calls a roach a roach. None of this Latin stuff for me.

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