Encyclopedia of Animal Cognition and Behavior

Living Edition
| Editors: Jennifer Vonk, Todd Shackelford


  • Haden Roberson
  • Kristine O. EvansEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-47829-6_1436-1



Taxa, the plural form of taxon, are the names given to taxonomic groups in an academic system of nomenclature.

The term taxon was coined by German biologist, Adolf Meyer-Abich, in 1926 as a derivative of the word taxonomy. Taxa are used within the field of taxonomy, which is the branch of science involving the classification of organisms. Taxonomists (i.e., biologists that group organisms into categories) use taxa to organize one or more populations of a particular organism that tend to exhibit morphological, behavioral, genetic, or evolutionary similarities. Taxonomists typically assign particular taxa a name and rank, which refers to a taxonomic categorization in which organisms are organized by their relative level to other organisms. At any rank, a taxon should indicate a common evolutionary background, suggesting that all members within the same taxonomic grouping evolved from common ancestors (de...

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. de Queiroz, K., & Gauthier, J. (1990). Phylogeny as a central principle in taxonomy: Phylogenetic definitions of taxon names. Systematic Zoology, 39(4), 307–322.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. de Queiroz, A., & Wimberger, P. H. (1993). The usefulness of behavior for phylogeny estimation: Levels of homoplasy in behavioral and morphological characters. Evolution, 47(1), 46–60.  https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1558-5646.1993.tb01198.x.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Hagen, J. B. (2012). Five kingdoms, more or less: Robert Whittaker and the broad classification of organisms. Bioscience, 67(1), 67–74.  https://doi.org/10.1525/bio.2012.62.1.11.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and AquacultureMississippi State UniversityStarkvilleUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • Mystera M. Samuelson
    • 1
  1. 1.The Institute for Marine Mammal StudiesGulfportUSA