DIVERSITY OF LIFE

HOW TO USE THE DIVERSITY OF LIFE

The Diversity of Life web has been in the making for the past 20 years.  It began as a set of synoptic descriptions of phyla as they had been given in the standard text by Margulis and Schwartz (1982, 1988, and 1998), Five Kingdoms.  Work in the areas of microbiology, protozoology, phycology, zoology, mycology, and botany began to coalesce into a collective understanding that the five kingdom system was not satisfactory.  Thus, through a review of the pertinent literature, we began  to reconfigure the hierarchical taxonomic scheme to use as an alternate text.  By 2004 Five Kingdoms did not work as a text, and the web site became the primary textbook for a course on the diversity of life.  The main part of the text can be entered through the Diversity of Life.  

The kingdoms have links to phyla.  The phylum-level page is the basic page for all groups of living things and contains the following sections:

The introduction is a brief description of the phylum with some emphasis on economically important taxa, unique structures, and aspects of life history.  This section is supported with some citations and illustrations.

The synoptic description of the phylum is an attempt to present the salient morphological, biochemical, physiological, ultrastructural, and life history characters in the same way for phyla in a particular group.  The goal is to provide a mechanism by which broad groups of taxa can be compared directly.  The synoptic page formats are:

The systematics section is a brief text that covers the current understanding of the phylum, its taxonomic structure, and currently used alternatives.  The systematic treatment is our interpretation of the literature for that group and is under constant revision.

The hierarchical classification of the phylum is the higher taxa of all phyla to order (class for most animal groups).  However, it is uneven in its treatment.  The vertebrates are given to family as are the conifers and flowering plants.  

You may access the phylum pages through the Diversity of Life front page.  Archaea and Eubacteria can be explored from the Domain level which links to a page describing the respective domain and links to kingdoms within that domain.  From there, click on the appropriate phylum.  We organized the eukaryotes according to the treatments of Keeling (2004) and Bauldauf (2003).  We have taken the supergroups to be superkingdoms, most of which contain kingdoms.  You may enter the kingdom through the supergroup or the kingdom directly.  From there, you may choose the appropriate phylum.

We have tried to insert illustrations and glossary terms throughout the text.  We recognize that because this page is an integrated presentation from different fields of biology, many technical terms are used, some of which may have different meanings for different groups.  In other cases, the same structures have been given different names by botanists and zoologists.

We recognize that the main shortcoming of this page is the difficulty in finding your way if you do not know where you are going.  That is, to find out about Euglena and its relatives, you must click on the Kingdom Discicristatae within the Supergroup Excavata.  Within the Discicristatae, you would click on the Euglenoida.  We are in the process of trying to find a more useful search engine than we now have.  If you have suggestions as to the search engine or others about the website, we welcome your input.

Jack R. Holt and Carlos A. Iudica

By Jack R. Holt.  Last revised: 03/23/2012