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Diagraming Evolution, or How to read a Cladogram

Remember the Linnaean system of classification you probably learned in grade school or high school (heck, maybe even college)? It went something like this…

Kingdom -> Phylum -> Class -> Order -> Family -> Genus-> Species

Linnaeus started using this classification system in the 1700s and he had a good run; we still use his system in certain situations. However, we’ve moved away from this ranking system mostly because of the discovery of transitional fossils that screwed with Linnaeus’s idea of neat little boxes for all of life to be categorized into. This system falls apart, for example when you have two equivalent ranks, let’s say class Osteichtyes (boney fish) and class Amphibia (amphibians), and find a transition between the two.

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