Taxonomy is the science that enables us to quantify biodiversity, although its applications extend much further than this because without it our understanding of ecology and evolution would be greatly reduced. Taxonomy has therefore remained an important area of biological research since Linnaeus developed his extensive classification system in the 18th century. Over the years, organisms have been classified on the basis of a wide range of morphological, behavioural and genetic characters. In this section we will limit ourselves to a discussion on the importance of taxonomy to conservation biology, paying particularly attention to the contributions that have come from molecular data.

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