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Once fascinated with life under water it's natural to want to know more about identification and species. This section includes a layman's introduction as well as various lists to help out in conversation with divers and the like abroad ;-)

  Understanding classification of species is a great help when trying to identify a fish. The table below lists the classification categories. Kingdom could be described as the "origin of life" and Species the "end product". Most likely you'll only need the last three categories (Family, Genus, and Species).

Kingdom (Rige)
One kingdom, Eukaryotes, is a.o. divided into animals, plants, fungi, protists (f.inst. algae). Another kingdom includes f.inst. bacteria.

Phylum (Række)
The animal kingdom is divided into some 37 phyla and sub phyla including the Phylum Chordata which includes the vertebrates (fishes, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals). Other phyla include the arthropods (f.inst. crustaceans) and molluscs. Also Cnidaria which is jellyfish, sea anemones, corals, etc.), and Porifea which is sponges.

Class (Klasse)
The Phylum Chordata with classes for "jawed vertebrates" such as mammals and fishes. Fishes are divided into sub-classes including Cartilaginous fishes (sharks, rays, sawfish, and chimeras) and Bony fishes including ray-finned fishes.

Order (Orden)
The Class Ray-finned Fishes, of course, is divided into some 16 different orders with f.inst. one order for the likes of cods, hakes, trout-perch and anglerfishes and another for carps and minnows, piranhas and electric eels.

Another Class, Mammals, are divided into 20 orders incl. Primates (monkeys, gorillas, chimps and humans) and Cetacea (dolphins, whales, porpoises).

Family (Familie)
Orders and sub-orders are divided into Families. F.inst. the Order Scorpaeniformes contains families for sculpins, stone fish, sea robins as well as the family Scorpaenidae (in turn divided into sub-families just to complicate things - f.inst. scorpionfishes in one and lionfish in another).

Another Family Catarrhini is divided into three genera of which one contains gibbons and another the hominidae.

Genus (Slægt)
The family Scorpaenidae is divided into different sub-families and then into genera with f.inst. the devil scorpionsfishes (Inimicus), the humpbacked scorpionfishes (Scorpaenopsis), and the Rhinopias.

The Genus Hominidae consists of humans, gorilla, chimpanzee, bonobo and orang-utan.

Species (Art)
One (traditional) definition of a species is a group of individuals that is anatomically the same and can have fertile off-spring.

Homo Sapiens (modern humans) is a species - regardless of colour or creed.


  If the above has your interest, check out the Tree of Life Web Project. This project is a collaborative effort of biologists from around the world. On more than 4000 www pages, the project provides information about the diversity of organisms on Earth, their evolutionary history, and characteristics.

All pictures & web-design © kofte.dk This section updated 27/09/2005