Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute
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Classification is the systematic arrangement of organisms (or any objects) in groups or categories according to established criteria. The classification and study of organisms with regard to their natural relationships was originally designed to organize the enormous number and variety of known plants and animals into categories that could be named, remembered, and discussed. Living organisms are classified according to physical characteristics, genetic information and evolutionary history. Scientists around the world use a common classification scheme in order to make research and communication about organisms clear, accurate and consistent across disciplines and languages.

This unit is adaptable for all audiences and serves as an introduction to classification. During the unit, students will explore the process of identifying and classifying organisms by working with a variety of items, from hardware to deep-sea organisms.

Classification Activities | Back to top

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Sorting Objects

This lesson serves as an introduction to classification, using familiar objects to help students understand what attributes are used to classify things.
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Local Organism Sort

This lesson uses plants and/or animals that students are already familiar with to assist them in making connections between physical characteristics and categorization.
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Deep-sea Sort

This activity encourages students to take what they have learned about the principles of classification and apply it to deep-sea animals that they may have never seen before. Deep-sea images are included.
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Appearances are Deceiving

This lesson is intended to introduce students to selection processes that govern convergent evolution.  Students will focus on analogous physical and behavioral characteristics of organisms that are found in the deep ocean and how these characteristics are adaptive to this environment. 

Classification in the news | Back to top

National Science Foundation—Geosciences (GEO) News: (04/18/07)
New Deep-Sea Hydrothermal Vents, Life Form Discovered

Spiegel Online: (04/18/07)
Vive le Volcan: Réunion Eruption Reveals New Fish Species

Scientific American: (11/04)
What’s in a Name?

New Scientist: (9/04)
Linnean naming system faces challengers

Glencoe Online: (12/03)
Counting the Ocean’s Population

Classification Resources | Back to top

  • MBARI Images and Video
    This link from the Data and Images section gives browsers a peek at a few of the incredible organisms they might see in the Monterey Canyon.
  • Monterey Bay Aquarium—Deep Sea
    The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s section on the deep sea is full of adaptation information and a list of some of the species MBARI scientists see in the Monterey Canyon, as well as a virtual dive!
  • Animal Diversity Web
    Created by the University of Michigan’s Department of Zoology, this site has lots of information about different groups of animals, as well as a section for teachers/instructors that includes some great teaching ideas.
  • The “Nuts and Bolts” of Taxonomy and Classification
    Provides background information on what exactly these two subjects are and provides a simple activity to do with your students.
  •—Animal Classification
    This lesson on classification by the Discovery Channel is aimed at grades 3–5, but is easily adaptable to suit older or younger grades.
  • MBARI Midwater Research
    Includes information about current MBARI research projects and the scientists that explore the ocean realm between the surface and the ocean floor.
  • Monsters of the Deep
    This site leads viewers through an underwater exploration of the curious creatures of the deep sea.

Last updated: May. 21, 2010