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Systematics in Modern Biology

Systematics is the root of comparative biology. Comparative biology attempts to relate characteristics of one organism to another, in this case homology and homoplasy are put to question because of similarity due to common ancestor or similarity due to a function. In systematic, studies focus on hypothesizing homology of features among taxa and then gather data to test these hypotheses.

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This is most important because appearance alone is not always a good indicator that features in various taxa and similarity due to a common ancestor will evolve on its own in different lineages.

Systematics and biodiversity

Biodiversity is the variety of different plants and animals on Earth. According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), biodiversity basically measures variation at the genetic, the species, and the ecosystem level. Because of increase in human population, anthropogenic activities tend to directly and indirectly threatens biodiversity at large. Currently the Earth is experiencing an increased rate of extinction of Earth’s flora and fauna caused by human activities and as a result, biodiversity is being reduced at an accelerated rate.

According to (Ehrlich and Wilson 1991; Eldredge 1992; Wilson 1985), only few people know that a small percentage of living things has been described and counted. This literally means that many people do not know there are still variety of living things that are yet to be described and accounted for. Currently, approximately 1.4 million species have been described and named (Ehrlich 1981; May 1988; Stark 1993; Wilson and Peter 1988). Systematics is the science that tend to provide solutions to the problems facing biodiversity.

Systematics and biodiversity conservation priorities

Since the world is incredibly increasing at an alarming rate, these put a pressure on biotic resources and as a result, difficult decisions have to be made about what parts of the Earth and where will it be maintained in a natural state in order to conserve the biodiversity present there. If it decided that biodiversity has to be maximized, then the phylogenetic patterns produced by systematists gives a way to prioritize areas based upon the diversity they contain. In order to maximize diversity, it makes sense to try to preserve groups from throughout the phylogenetic tree, rather than large numbers.
Systematics identify and document Earth’s biodiversity, and construct this information in a form that can be used for studying the diversity of earth organisms

Given information about endangered, alien/invasive (introduced) species, also important in conservation of small populations (minimum viable population size) that are threatened by human activities e.g. habitat destruction (overharvesting of trees). Biodiversity collections are intended to be permanent, and are assembled over time, they provide a way of analysing changes in the world’s flora and fauna, and can therefore provide supporting evidence for phenomena such as human-caused climate change.

Systematics and conservation biology

Conservation biology aims protect and re-establish/restore biodiversity, or the diverse nature of individuals on Earth. Also, address the loss of biodiversity and how to prevent species and habitats from being lost while still maintaining sustainable human societies. In order to preserve biodiversity three following questions must be taken into consideration, first how is the diversity of life distributed around the planet, second what threats does this diversity face, and lastly what can people do to reduce or eliminate these threats.

Captive breeding and reintroduction, genetic analyses, and habitat restoration all important in conservation biology. Biological systematics studies the diversity of living structures, at various times, and the relationships among living things through time. Relationships are constructed in evolutionary trees. Phylogenetic trees of species and higher taxa are used to study the evolution of traits (e.g. anatomical or molecular characteristics) and the relationship of organisms e.g. taxonomy. Systematics, as such, is used to understand the evolutionary history of life on Earth.

Application of systematics in different branches

  • Numerical systematics is a method that uses biological statistics to identify and classify animals.
  • Biochemical systematics is a method that classifies and identifies animals based on the analysis of the material that makes up the living part of a cell, such as the nucleus, cytoplasm, and other organelles.
  • Experimental systematics is a method that identifies and classifies animals based on the evolutionary units that comprise a species, as well as their importance in evolution itself.

Branches enhances the researchers to determine the applications and uses for modern day systematics.

Such applications include:

  1. Biologists study the well-understood relationships by making many different diagrams and trees (cladograms, phylogenetic trees, and scenarios).
  2. Manipulating and controlling the natural world. This includes the practice of biological control the intentional introduction of natural predators and disease.
  3. Systematics in relation to society
  • Valuable in providing a cleaned-up set of names and a manageable system needed for filing, searching, comparing, recording and working with different species.
  • Mainly there is a need to re-evaluate taxonomy.
  • Systematics improved taxon sampling, storage, and recording of valuable data.

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