Scientists assign all living organisms a Latin name, also called the binomial name.  Using Latin avoids confusion caused when people from different places, speaking different languages, use different names to talk about the same animal or the same name to talk about different animals.  The process of organizing organisms into groups (taxons) by shared characteristics is called "taxonomy".  These taxonomic groups work from the most general characteristics to specific traits, and reflect how creatures are related through evolution.

The complete "taxonomic tree" for the Florida black bear is:

Kingdom: Animalia (animals, not plants or single celled organisms)

Phylum: Chordata (they have spinal chords)

Sub-phylum: Vertebrata (they have a back bone)

Class: Mammalia (they are mammals)

Order: Carnivora (classified by body structure as carnivores)

Family: Ursidae (the Latin word for bear family)

Subfamily: Ursinae

Genus: Ursus (Latin for bear)

Species: americanus (from America)

Subspecies: Floridanus (from Florida)



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