Murray, R. G. E. Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Health Sciences Centre, University of Western Ontario, London, Canada.
Last reviewed:February 2018
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- Nature of characters
- Taxonomic approaches
- Links to Primary Literature
- Additional Readings
The classification, nomenclature, and identification of bacteria. Bacterial taxonomy is concerned with the naming of bacterial organisms and with organizing these names according to various criteria. Biologically, bacteria (Fig. 1) are prokaryotic organisms, which are defined in terms of the unique structural and biochemical properties of their cells—more specifically, the organization of the deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) in the nucleus, the lack of a nuclear membrane, the lack of independent membrane-bounded cytoplasmic organelles, the lack of endocytosis and exocytosis, and the chemical nature of some components of the plasma membrane and cell walls. In addition, bacteria inhabit a great diversity of ecologic niches, and the individual kinds of bacteria within these bacterial populations exhibit a variety of physiologic capabilities and accomplish remarkable chemical transformations. Therefore, the systematic study of the component bacteria in these populations demands recognition of these properties, as well as a taxonomic classification of those bacteria so that they may be assigned to already named species or be described as a new organism to be classified and named. Overall, classification involves the recognition of similarities and relationships as a basis for the arrangement of the bacteria into taxonomic groups or taxa. The basic taxon is the species. Identification also involves the recognition of a bacterium as a member of one of the established taxa, appropriately named, by the comparison of a number of characters with those in the description. See also: Bacteria; Bacterial physiology and metabolism; Bacteriology; Microbiology; Prokaryote; Speciation; Systematics; Taxonomic categories; Taxonomy
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