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The Five Kingdoms

Kingdoms are groups that categorize all living things, from the tiny bacteria to the large elephant. There are five kingdoms used by scientists: Animal, Plant, Protist, Fungi, and Monera. Each of these kingdoms has specific defining features that help scientists sort living things.

Image of fish and plants in a coral reef.

History of the Five Kingdoms

Looking around the natural world, it is easy to see the similarities and differences between living things. Some living things grow out of the ground and don’t move, and others are furry and run around.

Over 2,000 years ago a Greek philosopher named Aristotle first decided to split living things into two groups: animals and plants. We now know that there are more ways to distinguish living things, but this was a good place to start.

After Aristotle, scientists spent many years learning more about the living world. They finally decided on the five kingdoms we use today. However, it’s important to remember that scientists are always learning new things, so these groups might change in the future.

Statue of Aristotle a great greek philosopher the five kingdoms

Aristotle was a Greek philosopher who first classified living things into groups

Classifying the Kingdoms

There are a number of criteria for classifying the different kingdoms. Listed below are the five kingdoms are some of their characterizing features. You can click on each link to learn more about the kingdom.

Image of how things are classified taxonomy the five kingdoms

Scientists group living things based on shared characteristics

Animal: Animals are multicellular organisms with eukaryotic cells. This means that the cells have nuclei and organelles. Unlike plants, animals get nutrients by eating – they can’t make energy themselves.

Plant: Plants are also multicellular organisms with eukaryotic cells. Unlike animals, most plants cannot move. They can, however, make their own food through a process called photosynthesis.

Protist: Protists are single-celled organisms with eukaryotic cells. Some protists eat to get energy and some use photosynthesis.

Fungi: Fungi are multicellular organisms with eukaryotic cells. Like plants, fungi have cell walls, but they cannot perform photosynthesis and have to absorb nutrients to get energy.

Monera: Monera are single-celled organisms with prokaryotic cells. This means that the cells do not have nuclei or organelles.

3d illustration of a top view on blue cell pattern with red cell nucleus

Most living things are classified by what kinds of cells they have

Written by: Leah Tolby