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Vertebrate Taxonomy. Keeping track of species. Taxonomy: describing and naming an organism >1 million species named, up to 15 million more Taxonomy is not new; cultures have been naming plants and animals around them for 1000s of years It’s practical to have names. Binomial Nomenclature.

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Vertebrate Taxonomy

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keeping track of species
Keeping track of species

Taxonomy: describing and naming an organism

>1 million species named, up to 15 million more

Taxonomy is not new; cultures have been naming plants and animals around them for 1000s of years

It’s practical to have names

binomial nomenclature
Binomial Nomenclature

Standard system for naming things

Linnaeus described and named > 6,000 animals and >4,000 plants using Latin

Scientific name does not replace, but instead further defines common name

“Watch out--there is a large, furry, four-legged omnivore with long claws, a big mouth set in a short, stout muzzle, attached to a round head containing small eyes and short triangular ears behind that rock!”


“Watch out—there’s a bear behind that rock!

Q. What is the largest wild felid (cat) in the United States?

Mountain Lion






early naming of species
Early naming of species

1st word was a noun: Genus

2nd word was an adjective: Specific epithet

Genus + specific epithet = scientific name of a species

Procyon lotor
  • Pro = early
  • Cyon = dog
  • Lotor = swimming

Tamias minimus

  • Tamias = animal who caches food
  • Minimus = smallest
Peromyscus leucopus
  • Pera = small
  • Mys = mouse
  • Leuco = white
  • Pus = foot

Canis latrans

  • Canis = dog
  • Latrans = barking
May tell you where it was first discovered:
  • Didelphis virginiana “2 wombs from Virginia”
  • Sylvilagus floridanus “wood-hare of Florida”

Or who discovered it:

  • Lepus townsendii “hare” discovered by “Townsend”
taxonomic goals
Taxonomic goals

Place organisms into logical categories

  • system must be capable of being used for information retrieval, so anyone can properly identify any organism

Place organisms into categories that show ancestor-descendant relationships

taxonomic hierarchy
Taxonomic hierarchy

Kingdom (Animalia)

Phylum (Chordata)

Class (Mammalia)

Order (Rodentia)

Family (Castoridae)

Genus (Castor)

Specific epithet (species) (canadensis)

Scientific name: Castor canadensis

phylum chordata
Phylum Chordata
  • Several classes of fish
    • Jawless fishes
    • Sharks and rays
    • Bony fish
  • Class Amphibia (frogs, toads, salamanders)
  • Class Testudines (turtles, tortoises)
  • Class Lepidosauromorpha (snakes, lizards)
  • Class Crocodilia (alligators, crocodiles)
  • Class Aves (birds)
  • Class Mammalia (mammals)
class amphibia
Two stage life cycle

Aquatic larvae

Terrestrial adult

Respiratory structures

Gills (larvae)

Lungs (adult)


Mucous and poison skin glands

Three-chambered heart



Must lay eggs in or near water

Major groups






Frogs and toads

Class Amphibia
Shelled amniotic egg

Skin hard and brittle

Many have bony plates under scales

Three-chambered heart


Major groups






herp traps
Herp Traps
  • Pitfall traps
    • Useful for catching terrestrial arthropods and small mammals
    • Usually include drift fence to increase capture rate
herpetology module
Herpetology Module
  • Dr. Sunny Boyd
  • Lectures on ecology and phylogeny of herps
  • Field exercises
    • Collection of herps from UNDERC lakes and vernal ponds
    • Study of mating calls of frogs
    • Study of tadpole abundance and diversity
class aves
Class Aves
  • Many orders of birds
    • Columbiformes: doves and pigeons
    • Falconiformes: diurnal birds of prey
    • Apodiformes: hummingbirds
    • Gruiformes: cranes and rails
    • Piciformes: woodpeckers
    • Strigiformes: owls
    • Anseriformes: ducks and geese
    • Galliformes: chickens and turkeys
    • Passeriformes: perching birds
class mammalia
Many orders of mammals

Rodentia: rodents

Chiroptera: bats

Soricomorpha: shrews and moles

Carnivora: cats, dogs, bears, weasels, raccoons

Lagomorpha: rabbits

Artiodactyla: ungulates


Didelphimorphia: American marsupials

Class Mammalia
mammal traps
Mammal Traps

Tomahawk traps

Sherman traps

Leg-hold traps

noninvasive techniques
Noninvasive Techniques

Scent Stations

Bat Detectors

Trailmaster Cameras


Tracking Stations

ornithology mammalogy module
Ornithology/Mammalogy Module
  • Lectures on ecology and conservation of birds and mammals
  • Field exercises
    • Exciting morning exercies (birding, mammal trapping)
    • Fun night exercises (howl surveys, owling)
    • Radio telemetry