Aristotle’s scientific contributions to the classification, nomenclature and distribution of marine organisms

Published: Jan 17, 2018
Aegean Sea Ancient Greece history of marine biology marine biodiversity philosophy of biology
The biological works of the Greek philosopher Aristotle include a significant amount of information on marine animals. In the present study, an overview of his scientific contribution to the knowledge of marine biodiversity and specifically to taxonomic classification, nomenclature and distribution of marine species is attempted. Our results showed that Aristotle’s approach looks remarkably familiar to present day marine biologists since: (i) although not directly aiming at it, he gave a taxonomic classification of marine animals, which includes physical groups ranked on three levels at least; (ii) most of Aristotle’s marine “major groups” correspond to taxa of the order rank in Linnaeus’s classification and to taxa of the class rank in the current classification; (iii) a positive correlation was found between the number of taxa per group identified in Aristotle’s writings and those described by Linnaeus; (iv) his classification system exhibits similarities with the current one regarding the way taxa are distributed to higher categories. (v) a considerable number of Aristotle’s marine animal names have been used for the creation of the scientific names currently in use; (vi) he gave the first account of the Mediterranean marine fauna, focusing on the Aegean Sea and adjacent areas. Taking into account all the above, we suggest that the foundations of marine taxonomy as laid down by Aristotle are still echoing today.
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