Diversity of Life

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The Diversity of Life web has been in the making for the past 20 years. It began as a set of synoptic descriptions of phyla as they had been given in the standard text by Margulis and Schwartz (1982, 1988, and 1998), Five Kingdoms. Work in the areas of microbiology, protozoology, phycology, zoology, mycology, and botany began to coalesce into a collective understanding that the five kingdom system was not satisfactory. Thus, through a review of the pertinent literature, we began to reconfigure the hierarchical taxonomic scheme to use as an alternate text. The introduction is a brief description of the phylum with some emphasis on economically important taxa, unique structures, and aspects of life history. This section is supported with some citations and illustrations. The synoptic description of the phylum is an attempt to present the salient morphological, biochemical, physiological, ultrastructural, and life history characters in the same way for phyla in a particular group. The goal is to provide a mechanism by which broad groups of taxa can be compared directly. The systematics section is a brief text that covers the current understanding of the phylum, its taxonomic structure, and currently used alternatives. The systematic treatment is our interpretation of the literature for that group and is under constant revision. The hierarchical classification of the phylum is the higher taxa of all phyla to order (class for most animal groups). However, it is uneven in its treatment. The vertebrates are given to family as are the conifers and flowering plants.