Lobster 101: Taxonomy

Taxonomy is the science of classifying organisms. The system scientists now use to classify organisms is called the Linnaean taxonomy system, named after Swedish biologist Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778), the “Father of Taxonomy.” This system has seven different levels of classification (kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, species) with the seventh level, species, being the most specific. There are many subdivisions of the seven levels of classifications, for example, subphylum or super class.

The more levels two organisms have in common, the closer they are related. Lobsters and humans are not closely related at all; we only share a kingdom. But lobsters and crabs share kingdom, phylum, class, and order, so they are closely related. The most common way to list the taxonomic name of an organism is by using its genus and species, Homarus americanus. This is called binomial (bi for two, nomial for name) nomenclature (naming).

Taxonomy of Homarus americanus

Kingdom: Animalia

All animals belong to this kingdom

Phylum: Arthropoda

The animals in this phylum all lack back bones and are known as invertebrates. They also all have external skeletons (exoskeleton), jointed appendages and segmented body. The name of this phylum literally means jointed (from Greek arthron) foot (from Greek podos). Arthropods are the largest group of animals in the world and members of this group can be found in every type of environment. Arthropods range in size, from less than a centimeter to over 3 meters. Some of the most commonly known arthropods include ants, butterflies, spiders, shrimp, and lobsters.

Subphylum: Crustacea

Animals in this group all have two-parted limbs, two pairs of antennae at some point in their life, and three body parts (head, thorax, and abdomen). The name crustacean comes from the hard, “crusty” outer shell most of the animals have. There is a wide range in sizes among animals in this group, from the smallest arthropod measuring 0.004 inches to the Japanese spider crab with a leg span of 12.5 feet. Crustaceans include crabs, woodlice, barnacles, shrimp and lobsters.

Class: Malacostraca

The name of this class is misleading. Malakos and ostrakon, both Greek roots, mean soft and shell, respectively. The animals in this class only have a soft shell immediately after molting. This class includes crab, shrimp and krill.

Order: Decapoda

All of the animals in the order decapod (deca meaning ten and poda meaning foot) have ten feet. Shrimp, crabs, lobsters, and crayfish are all decapods.

Family: Nephropidae

This family has all the clawed lobsters

Genus: Homarus

The Homarus genus includes the American and European lobsters

Species: americanus

American lobster


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