Taxonomy | Definition, discovery and importance

Taxonomy | Definition, discovery and importance


Taxonomy is a branch of biology which deals with the study of naming, classifying and describing organisms. 

Discovery of taxonomy

Taxonomy was discovered by Carolus Linnaeus in the 18th century and so he is considered as the father of taxonomy. Over several years, a large number of different taxonomists developed and enriched this subject by contributing their discoveries of different new species or genus of organisms to the subject and thus made it an efficient mechanisms to accommodate the discovery of more and more species.

Incidents where knowledge of taxonomy was useful

Two incidents where knowledge of taxonomy was useful are given below:

  • An incident which occurred in 1996 where a deadly fungus named Tilletia indica was discovered in wheat crops in certain areas of U.S.A. and this is the only fungus which causes the disease ‘karnal bunt’ in wheat crop, where the colour of the wheat crops turned blackish. This microscopic fungus caused a huge harmful impact in USA’s billion dollar wheat export market. But taxonomists saved this huge agricultural disaster from actually getting worst. Taxonomist said that the blackening of these wheat crops was because of a completely different species of fungus and these species are not at all poisonous. It was only the blessings of taxonomy which averted a major 500 billion dollar economic crisis in the world’s most stable economies.
  • Another case was of two kidney failures in the U.K. in 1999 which resulted from the use of a Chinese herb, named Aristolochia manshuriensis prescribed by the practitioners of Chinese herbal medicine. Plant taxonomists then examined this medication given by the practitioner, using grass morphological characteristics that are visible to the naked eye. It was only because of the establishment of scientific names, taxonomists were able to identify the herb Aristolochia manshuriensis, and further examined this plant and found that the plant contained a poisonous substance called aristolochic acid. The department of health of U.K. then banned the import, manufacture, sale or supply of any unlicensed medicine in the country which contained the herb Aristolochia. Again, here in this case the knowledge of taxonomy helped U.K. government to improve their healthcare department.

Thus, from this two real incidents we can easily understand that how the knowledge of taxonomy is very important and how it can save us from an uncertain hazardous circumstances.

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