Taxonomy

A taxonomist classifies and categorizes plants and animals. The profession is called taxonomy.

It can be a difficult job, because their task is to look at the similarities and differences in animals, and to determine which animals are related.

Sometimes, when the taxonomist recieves more information, he or she may change the category of an animal.

For example, the taxonomic classification of the Red Panda (Ailurus fulgens) has been very difficult. Is it related to the Giant Panda or is it related to the raccoon?

French zoologist, Frederic Cuvier, initially described the Red Panda in 1825, and classified it as a close relative of the raccoon (Procyonidae), although he gave it the genus name Ailurus, which means cat, and the species name fulgens, which means shining.

Recent DNA analsyis places the Red Panda into its own family, Ailuridae, a part of the superfamily called Musteloidea, which includes skunks, raccoons, otters, and weasels.

The Red Panda eats bamboo and has a ‘false thumb’ like the Giant Panda. The Red Panda is not a bear, and it is not related to the Giant Panda. It is not related to the raccoon either. Some scientists think it is in a group of its own.

 

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