For other uses, see Phyla.
Traditionally, in botany the term division has been used instead of phylum, although the International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants accepts the terms as equivalent.
The term phylum was coined in 1866 by Ernst Haeckel from the Greek phylon (, "race, stock"), related to phyle (, "tribe, clan").
Haeckel noted that species constantly evolved into new species that seemed to retain few consistent features among themselves and therefore few features that distinguished them as a group ("a self-contained unity").
"Wohl aber ist eine solche reale und vollkommen abgeschlossene Einheit die Summe aller Species, welche aus einer und derselben gemeinschaftlichen Stammform allmählig sich entwickelt haben, wie z.
B. alle Wirbelthiere.
Diese Summe nennen wir Stamm (Phylon)."
which translates as: However, perhaps such a real and completely self-contained unity is the aggregate of all species which have gradually evolved from one and the same common original form, as, for example, all vertebrates.
We name this aggregate [a] Stamm [i.e., race] (Phylon).
Informally, phyla can be thought of as groupings of organisms based on general specialization of body plan.
At its most basic, a phylum can be defined in two ways: as a group of organisms with a certain degree of morphological or developmental similarity (the phenetic definition), or a group of organisms with a certain degree of evolutionary relatedness (the phylogenetic definition).
Attempting to define a level of the Linnean hierarchy without referring to (evolutionary) relatedness is unsatisfactory, but a phenetic definition is useful when addressing questions of a morphological nature—such as how successful different body plans were.
Definition based on genetic relation
The most important objective measure in the above definitions is the "certain degree" that defines how different organisms need to be members of different phyla.
The minimal requirement is that all organisms in a phylum should be clearly more closely related to one another than to any other group.
Even this is problematic because the requirement depends on knowledge of organisms' relationships: as more data become available, particularly from molecular studies, we are better able to determine the relationships between groups.
So phyla can be merged or split if it becomes apparent that they are related to one another or not.
For example, the bearded worms were described as a new phylum (the Pogonophora) in the middle of the 20th century, but molecular work almost half a century later found them to be a group of annelids, so the phyla were merged (the bearded worms are now an annelid family).
On the other hand, the highly parasitic phylum Mesozoa was divided into two phyla (Orthonectida and Rhombozoa) when it was discovered the Orthonectida are probably deuterostomes and the Rhombozoa protostomes.
This changeability of phyla has led some biologists to call for the concept of a phylum to be abandoned in favour of cladistics, a method in which groups are placed on a "family tree" without any formal ranking of group size.
Definition based on body plan
The definition was posited because extinct organisms are hardest to classify: they can be offshoots that diverged from a phylum's line before the characters that define the modern phylum were all acquired.
By Budd and Jensen's definition, a phylum is defined by a set of characters shared by all its living representatives.
This approach brings some small problems—for instance, ancestral characters common to most members of a phylum may have been lost by some members.
Also, this definition is based on an arbitrary point of time: the present.
However, as it is character based, it is easy to apply to the fossil record.
A greater problem is that it relies on a subjective decision about which groups of organisms should be considered as phyla.
The approach is useful because it makes it easy to classify extinct organisms as "stem groups" to the phyla with which they bear the most resemblance, based only on the taxonomically important similarities.
However, proving that a fossil belongs to the crown group of a phylum is difficult, as it must display a character unique to a sub-set of the crown group.
Furthermore, organisms in the stem group of a phylum can possess the "body plan" of the phylum without all the characteristics necessary to fall within it.
This weakens the idea that each of the phyla represents a distinct body plan.
A classification using this definition may be strongly affected by the chance survival of rare groups, which can make a phylum much more diverse than it would be otherwise.
Main article: Animal
Main article: Plant
The kingdom Plantae is defined in various ways by different biologists (see Current definitions of Plantae).
The table below follows the influential (though contentious) Cavalier-Smith system in equating "Plantae" with Archaeplastida, a group containing Viridiplantae and the algal Rhodophyta and Glaucophyta divisions.
The definition and classification of plants at the division level also varies from source to source, and has changed progressively in recent years.
Thus some sources place horsetails in division Arthrophyta and ferns in division Pteridophyta, while others place them both in Pteridophyta, as shown below.
The division Pinophyta may be used for all gymnosperms (i.e. including cycads, ginkgos and gnetophytes), or for conifers alone as below.
Since the first publication of the APG system in 1998, which proposed a classification of angiosperms up to the level of orders, many sources have preferred to treat ranks higher than orders as informal clades.
Where formal ranks have been provided, the traditional divisions listed below have been reduced to a very much lower level, e.g. subclasses.
|Other algae (Biliphyta)|
Main article: Fungi
Phylum Microsporidia is generally included in kingdom Fungi, though its exact relations remain uncertain, and it is considered a protozoan by the International Society of Protistologists (see Protista, below).
Molecular analysis of Zygomycota has found it to be polyphyletic (its members do not share an immediate ancestor), which is considered undesirable by many biologists.
Accordingly, there is a proposal to abolish the Zygomycota phylum.
Main article: Protista taxonomy
Protista is a polyphyletic taxon (it includes groups not directly related to one another), which is less acceptable to present-day biologists than in the past.
Protist taxonomy has long been unstable, with different approaches and definitions resulting in many competing classification schemes.
The phyla listed here are used for Chromista and Protozoa by the Catalogue of Life, adapted from the system used by the International Society of Protistologists.
Main article: Bacterial phyla
Currently there are 29 phyla accepted by List of Prokaryotic names with Standing in Nomenclature (LPSN)
- Acidobacteria, phenotypically diverse and mostly uncultured
- Actinobacteria, High-G+C Gram positive species
- Aquificae, only 14 thermophilic genera, deep branching
- Caldiserica, formerly candidate division OP5, Caldisericum exile is the sole representative
- Chlamydiae, only 6 genera
- Chlorobi, only 7 genera, green sulphur bacteria
- Chloroflexi, green non-sulphur bacteria
- Chrysiogenetes, only 3 genera (Chrysiogenes arsenatis, Desulfurispira natronophila, Desulfurispirillum alkaliphilum)
- Cyanobacteria, also known as the blue-green algae
- Deinococcus-Thermus, Deinococcus radiodurans and Thermus aquaticus are "commonly known" species of this phyla
- Elusimicrobia, formerly candidate division Thermite Group 1
- Firmicutes, Low-G+C Gram positive species, such as the spore-formers Bacilli (aerobic) and Clostridia (anaerobic)
- Lentisphaerae, formerly clade VadinBE97
- Proteobacteria, the most known phyla, containing species such as Escherichia coli or Pseudomonas aeruginosa
- Spirochaetes, species include Borrelia burgdorferi, which causes Lyme disease
- Tenericutes, alternatively class Mollicutes in phylum Firmicutes (notable genus: Mycoplasma)
- Thermotogae, deep branching
Main article: Archaea
Currently there are five phyla accepted by List of Prokaryotic names with Standing in Nomenclature (LPSN).
- Crenarchaeota, second most common archaeal phylum
- Euryarchaeota, most common archaeal phylum
- Nanoarchaeota, ultra-small symbiotes, single known species
Credits to the contents of this page go to the authors of the corresponding Wikipedia page: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phylum.