For this activity, give each student the binomial and a photo of an organism to research. Know that this activity relies on the use of computers to research each organism. Despite the limitations of Wikipedia, the entries for each species include the most recent taxonomic classification of each of the species included. I allow students to look elsewhere for the necessary information, but for many of them, students will be hard pressed to find the full taxonomy elsewhere.
The species included here are from each of six kingdoms: Bacteria, Ancient Bacteria, Fungus, Protists, Animals, and Plants. My presentation to the students explains the current flux in the Kingdom Protista, and I let them know that the taxonomy of these organisms is being debated. In some regards, the Kingdom Protista contains organisms that do not meet the requirements of the other kingdoms, and it contains are some organisms that are not closely related.
If students are able to complete their first species, I give them a second species from another kingdom. I often have some students get to a third species, but before they do, I make sure that they have found some interesting facts about their first two species.
I have included two rubrics. One is for just this activity, and the other is for both this activity and the Taxonomy Sorting activity. That activity is a nice precursor to this one, but it is not a prerequisite. Use one or the other, or both. I use both and grade them as one activity using the combined rubric.
N.B. Not all of the current taxonomies fit the Kingdom, Phylum, Closs, Order, Family, Genus, Species categorization. There are two flowering plants in the list: Theobroma cacao (cocoa tree) and Vaccinium corymbosum (highbush blueberry). Both of these species’ taxonomies do not fit neatly on the form. Students will find three taxa or groupings where there is space for only two on the form. Have them write in the taxonomy as it is shown. The organization of the flowering plants is complicated, but I didn’t think it was enough of a problem to omit all flowering plants.
Some of the other species may require students to add or omit some categories. This is the current state of our understanding of these species’ taxonomies. If you come across the word “clade,” it might help to know that a clade is an evolutionary group. Organisms in the same clade are thought to be closely related through common ancestry. The differences between the words cladistics, phylogeny, taxonomy, and systematics are complicated, and there is much synonymy between these words.