Taxonomy is the classification of living organisms.
This is a method of classifying and naming of plants and animals. It uses scientific names in Latin and uses different levels of relationship to classifying species.
Scientific names avoid confusion as reptiles can have different names in different languages. The scientific name cannot change unless the species is reclassified and even then the change of the scientific name follows strict international academic rules example ( first scientific name given to the snake takes preference over a new name and herpetologist must have good scientific evidence to prove the need to change a scientific name )
Species classification starts with Kingdoms which shows if the species is a plant or animal.
Kingdoms are divided into a phylum in animals this shows whether it has a back bone or not.
Phylum is divided into classes which are the group of animal e.g reptiles or mammals.
Classes are divided into orders which are the type of animal e.g snake or tortoise. There can be a suborder for closely related types of animals e.g snakes and lizards.
Orders are split into families Vipers or Pythons
then into a genus which is group of species i.e African House Snakes
Species which is an the individual animal Brown House Snake.
Subspecies is used for a variation within a certain species example Milk Snakes ( Lampropeltis Triagulum) 30 different Subspecies based on variotions of bands and location.
Subspecies are becoming unpopular with taxonomists
Example Mex Mex King Snake, Durango Mountain King Snake, Variable King Snake now classified as 1 species called a Mexican King Snake ( Lampropeltis Mexicana)
Tool of Calcification
Scale counts, Colouration, Size , Body shape , Hood in cobras, type of reproduction ( egg laying or live bearing) No pythons give live birth. So it’s a python if it lays eggs.
Comparative anatomy is used to compare an animals physical traits with another animals physical traits in order to see if there are enough differences to be a separate species or if there is enough similarities for it to be related to another species.
Example skeletal structure skulls ( fangs or teeth) are very useful and differences in hemepenal structure.
When looking at an animals DNA scientists do not sequence the entire genome as this is an expensive and takes a long time, very few animals genomes have been fully sequenced. Another problem is that an animals genome contains billions of base pairs of DNA, so where do you look for differences?
Scientists take a sample of tissue from a snake and only use the genes on a specific point in it’s genetic code and compare this with the genes in the same point of another snakes genetic code and compare the difference or similarities between the two species.
Where snake is found. Geological barriers such as mountain ranges can separate different species example West of Andes Common Boa, East of Andes Red Tailed Boa. Islands example no pythons in Madagascar. Continents No pythons South America, No Boas in Australia, therfore a large Constrictor is unlikely to be a boa if it is found in Australia. Interesting fact no vipers in Australia ( death adders are elapids and related to cobras, taipans, Mambas)