During the last century enormous progress has been made in the understanding of biological diversity, involving a dramatic shift from macroscopic to microscopic organisms. The question now arises as to whether the Natural System introduced by Carl Linnaeus, which has served as the central system for organizing biological diversity, can accommodate the great expansion of diversity that has been discovered. Important discoveries regarding biological diversity have not been fully integrated into a formal, coherent taxonomic system. In addition, because of taxonomic challenges and conflicts, various proposals have been made to abandon key aspects of the Linnaean system. We review the current status of taxonomy of the living world, focussing on groups at the taxonomic level of phylum and above. We summarize the main arguments against and in favour of abandoning aspects of the Linnaean system. Based on these considerations, we conclude that retaining the Linnaean Natural System provides important advantages. We propose a relatively small number of amendments for extending this system, particularly to include the named rank of world (Latin alternative mundis) formally to include non-cellular entities (viruses), and the named rank of empire (Latin alternative imperium) to accommodate the depth of diversity in (unicellular) eukaryotes that has been uncovered. We argue that in the case of both the eukaryotic domain and the viruses the cladistic approach intrinsically fails. However, the resulting semi-cladistic system provides a productive way forward that can help resolve taxonomic challenges. The amendments proposed allow us to: (i) retain named taxonomic levels and the three-domain system, (ii) improve understanding of the main eukaryotic lineages, and (iii) incorporate viruses into the Natural System. Of note, the proposal described herein is intended to serve as the starting point for a broad scientific discussion regarding the modernization of the Linnaean system.

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doi.org/10.1111/brv.12920
Biological Reviews
Centrum Wiskunde & Informatica, Amsterdam (CWI), The Netherlands

van der Gulik, P.T.S, Hoff, W.D, & Speijer, D. (2022). Renewing Linnaean taxonomy: a proposal to restructure the highest levels of the Natural System. Biological Reviews. doi:10.1111/brv.12920