Taxonomy is the area of the biological sciences devoted to the identification, naming, and classification of living things according to apparent common characteristics. It is far from a simple subject, particularly owing to many disputes over the rules for classifying plants and animals. In terms of real-life application, taxonomy, on the one hand, is related to the entire world of life on Earth, but on the other hand, it might seem an ivory-tower discipline that it has nothing to do with the lives of ordinary people. Nonetheless, to understand the very science of life, which is biology, it is essential to understand taxonomy. Each discipline has its own form of taxonomy: people cannot really grasp politics, for instance, without knowing such basics of political classification as the difference between a dictatorship and a democracy or a representative government and one with an absolute ruler. In the biological sciences, before one can begin to appreciate the many varieties of organisms on Earth, it is essential to comprehend the fundamental ideas about how those organisms are related—or, in areas of dispute, may be related—to one another.

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