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Chemotaxonomy | Definition Classification Significance

Submitted by Mousumi Sepai, Last Modified on 2019-12-07

Please note that this is not same as Cytotaxonomy. There is a difference between Chemotaxonomy and Cytotaxonomy. There are many zoology topics discussed here and can be found at the right hand side bar

Definition of chemotaxonomy

Chemotaxonomy, also called chemosystematics, is to classify and identify organisms according to confirmable differences and similarities in their biochemical compositions. In a nutshell, the biological classification of plants and animals based on similarities and differences in biochemical composition.

Introduction or overview of Chemotaxonomy:

All organisms coexist in ecosystems and interact with each other in various ways in which chemistry plays a major role. Many approaches are there towards taxonomy of organisms. Chemotaxonomy is the modern approach, especially for plants now. The chemical compounds studied most are proteins, amino acids, nucleic acids, peptides etc.


Chemotaxonomic Classification:

The phenolics, alkaloids, terpenoids and non-protein amino acids, are the four important and widely exploited groups of compounds utilized for chemotaxonomic classification. The system of chemotaxonomic classification relies on the chemical similarity of taxon. Three broad categories of compounds are used in plant chemotaxonomy:primary metabolites, secondary metabolites and semantics.

  • Primary metabolites:Primary metabolites are compounds that are involved in the fundamental metabolic pathways, which is utilized by the plant itself for growth and development, for example, citric acid used in Krebs cycle.

  • Secondary metabolites:Secondary metabolites are the compounds that usually perform non-essential functions in the plants. They are used for protection and defense against predators and pathogens and performs non-vital functions. For example, alkaloids, phenolics, glucosinalates, amino acids.

  • Semantics: Information carrying molecules like DNA, RNA, proteins.

Importance / significance of Chemotaxonomy:

Chemotaxonomy has been used in all levels of classification. CHemical evidence has been in all the groups of the plant kingdom, starting from simple organisms like fungi and bacteria up to the most highly advanced and specialized group of angiosperms.

Chemotaxonomy-based plant selection is a prerequisite for the successful natural product research. The rise of chemotaxonomy is mainly due to the advancement in analytical techniques for chemical analysis that can detect even trace amounts of chemical compounds.

Main purpose of chemotaxonomy:

  • To improve the existing system of plants differentiation.
  • To develop the present day knowledge of natural relationship of plants.

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