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Introduction to Biological Classification

Author(s): Deanne Erdmann, MS

Kingdoms and Domains

In the 18th Century, organisms were considered to belong to one of two kingdoms, Animalia or Plantae. As biologists gathered more information about the diverse forms of life on Earth, it became evident that the two-kingdom system did not accurately reflect relationships among different groups of organisms, and the number of kingdoms increased. In 1969, Robert Whittaker proposed a five-kingdom system consisting of monerans, protists, fungi, plants and animals. In the last few years, comparative studies of nucleotide sequences of genes coding for ribosomal RNA and other proteins have allowed biologists to recognize important distinctions between bacteria and archaebacteria. The graphic on this slide illustrates the phylogenetic relationships drawn from this information using a three-domain and a six-kingdom arrangement, compared to the traditional five kingdom system.