Family (Biology)


August 11, 2022

In biology, family (lat. familia) is one of the taxonomic categories in the hierarchical classification of organisms. It is located between order and genus. In zoology, there is a convention that the scientific names of families end in -idae. Unlike zoology, in botany family names end in -aceae. Immediately above the family is the superfamily (lat. Superfamilia), and below it is the subfamily (lat. Subfamilia). In zoology, there is also a special level of groups-families. Family names are often derived from the name of a particularly well-known genus of that family, but also from the morphological characteristics of a particular family. This term was introduced in botany by Pierre Magnol in 1689. With Carl Linnaeus, this level was called the Natural Order (lat. Ordines naturales), which was later replaced by the name family. What belongs to a family—or if a described family should be recognized at all—is proposed and determined by practicing taxonomists. There are no strict rules for describing or recognizing the family, but in plants they can be characterized based on the vegetative and reproductive characteristics of the plant species. Taxonomists often take different positions on descriptions and there may not be a broad consensus in the scientific community for some time. Publishing new data and opinions often allows for adjustments and consensus.


Family naming has been codified by various international bodies using the following suffixes: In fungal, algal, and botanical nomenclature, the family names of plants, fungi, and algae end in the suffix "-aceae", except for a small number of historic but widely used names, including Compositae and Gramineae. In zoological nomenclature, family names of animals end with the suffix "-idae".


The taxonomic term familia was first used by the French botanist Pierre Magnol in his Prodromus historiae generalis plantarum, in quo familiae plantarum per tabulas disponuntur (1689), where he named the seventy-six groups of plants that he recognized in his tables as families (familiae). The concept of rank was not yet settled at the time, and in the preface to Prodromus Magnol spoke of uniting his families into larger genera, which is a far cry from the way the term is used today. Carl Linnaeus used the word familia in his Philosophia botanica (1751) to denote the main groups of plants: trees, herbs, ferns, palms, and so on. This ter�