Standard Article

Prokaryotic Systematics: Theoretical Overview in the Light of Molecular Advances

  1. Ipek Kurtböke

Published Online: 15 APR 2014

DOI: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0000448.pub2



How to Cite

Kurtböke, I. 2014. Prokaryotic Systematics: Theoretical Overview in the Light of Molecular Advances. eLS. .

Author Information

  1. University of the Sunshine Coast, Maroochydore DC, Australia

  1. Based in part on the previous version of this eLS article ‘Prokaryotic Systematics: A Theoretical Overview’ (2001) by BJ Tindall.

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 APR 2014


Systematics describes the ordering of information on organisms and plays an important role in communicating information within biological sciences. Systematics seeks to reveal the phenotypic and genotypic diversity of organisms while relating this information to natural interactions and evolutionary history. Systematics may utilise a wide range of data and is not limited to the experimental methods that it may draw on in order to make sensible comparisons between organisms. Systematics requires an underlying order, and both systematics and taxonomy are strongly dependent on theory and philosophy, which are used to create this order. Systematics is a complex area, which has seen much change and progress in the last century. Developments in molecular biology have been adapted in line with the theory and philosophy and have become established in systematics. In the molecular era, accumulated data including those genomics-derived will be the driving force behind the revalidation of currently used theories and hypotheses formulated in systematics and lead towards the establishment of a ‘genomic taxonomy’.

Key Concepts:

  • Systematics seeks to discover phenotypic and genotypic diversity of organisms.

  • Taxonomy, the theory and practice of identifying, describing, naming and classifying organisms.

  • Current systematists make extensive use of molecular biology and bioinformatics to study microorganisms.

  • The basis of molecular phylogeny refers to evolutive relationship of microorganisms that can be inferred from the relationships of their genes and their genomes.

  • Genomics explores the biology of organisms through their genetic blueprints.

  • Metagenomics provide access to genome for prediction of the ecological role of members of microbial communities.

  • Current comparative genomics approaches will lead towards establishment of a ‘genomic taxonomy’.


  • prokaryotes;
  • evolution;
  • systematics;
  • taxonomy;
  • genomics;
  • phylogenomics;
  • biogeography