Family (biology)


Family (Latin: familia, pl.: familiae) is one of the nine major hierarchical taxonomic ranks in Linnaean taxonomy. It is classified between order and genus.[1] A family may be divided into subfamilies, which are intermediate ranks between the ranks of family and genus. The official family names are Latin in origin; however, popular names are often used: for example, walnut trees and hickory trees belong to the family Juglandaceae, but that family is commonly referred to as the "walnut family".

The hierarchy of biological classification's eight major taxonomic ranks. An order contains one or more families. Intermediate minor rankings are not shown.

The delineation of what constitutes a family— or whether a described family should be acknowledged— is established and decided upon by active taxonomists. There are not strict regulations for outlining or acknowledging a family, yet in the realm of plants, these classifications often rely on both the vegetative and reproductive characteristics of plant species. Taxonomists frequently hold varying perspectives on these descriptions, leading to a lack of widespread consensus within the scientific community for extended periods. The continual publication of new data and diverse opinions plays a crucial role in facilitating adjustments and ultimately reaching a consensus over time.



The naming of families is codified by various international bodies using the following suffixes:



The taxonomic term familia was first used by French botanist Pierre Magnol in his Prodromus historiae generalis plantarum, in quo familiae plantarum per tabulas disponuntur (1689) where he called the seventy-six groups of plants he recognised in his tables families (familiae). The concept of rank at that time was not yet settled, and in the preface to the Prodromus Magnol spoke of uniting his families into larger genera, which is far from how the term is used today.

In his work Philosophia Botanica published in 1751, Carl Linnaeus employed the term familia to categorize significant plant groups such as trees, herbs, ferns, palms, and so on. Notably, he restricted the use of this term solely within the book's morphological section, where he delved into discussions regarding the vegetative and generative aspects of plants. Subsequently, in French botanical publications, from Michel Adanson's Familles naturelles des plantes (1763) and until the end of the 19th century, the word famille was used as a French equivalent of the Latin ordo (or ordo naturalis).

In zoology, the family as a rank intermediate between order and genus was introduced by Pierre André Latreille in his Précis des caractères génériques des insectes, disposés dans un ordre naturel (1796). He used families (some of them were not named) in some but not in all his orders of "insects" (which then included all arthropods).

In nineteenth-century works such as the Prodromus of Augustin Pyramus de Candolle and the Genera Plantarum of George Bentham and Joseph Dalton Hooker this word ordo was used for what now is given the rank of family.



Families serve as valuable units for evolutionary, paleontological, and genetic studies due to their relatively greater stability compared to lower taxonomic levels like genera and species.[5][6]

See also



  1. ^ "Taxonomy - Definition, Classification & Example". Biology Dictionary. 19 March 2017. Retrieved 10 October 2022.
  2. ^ Barnhart JH (15 January 1895). "Family Nomenclature". Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club. 22 (1): 1–25. doi:10.2307/2485402. JSTOR 2485402.
  3. ^ ICN 2012, Section 2. Names of families and subfamilies, tribes and subtribes Article 18.
  4. ^ International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature (1999). "Article 29.2. Suffixes for family-group names". International Code of Zoological Nomenclature (Fourth ed.). International Trust for Zoological Nomenclature, XXIX. p. 306. Archived from the original on 9 November 2004. [1]
  5. ^ Sahney S, Benton MJ, Ferry PA (August 2010). "Links between global taxonomic diversity, ecological diversity and the expansion of vertebrates on land". Biology Letters. 6 (4): 544–547. doi:10.1098/rsbl.2009.1024. PMC 2936204. PMID 20106856.
  6. ^ Sahney S, Benton MJ (April 2008). "Recovery from the most profound mass extinction of all time". Proceedings. Biological Sciences. 275 (1636): 759–765. doi:10.1098/rspb.2007.1370. PMC 2596898. PMID 18198148.


  • Bullock AA (January 1958). "Indicis Nominum Familiarum Angiospermarum Prodromus". Taxon. 7 (1): 1–35. doi:10.2307/1216226. JSTOR 1216226.
  • Bullock AA (August 1958). "Indicis Nominum Familiarum Angiospermarum Prodromus: Additamenta et Corrigenda I". Taxon. 7 (6): 158–163. doi:10.2307/1217503. JSTOR 1217503.
  • ICN (2012). "International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants". Bratislava: International Association for Plant Taxonomy. Retrieved 17 January 2016.
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