The following section contains descriptions of over 50 groups of organisms that represent some of the diversity of the inanimate world. Some, like corn, are already familiar, while others are probably unfamiliar. But all have interesting aspects to their biology, and most are significant to human endeavors. For each group there is information concerning the following areas, matching the five sections of the book:
- taxonomy and phylogeny
- matter and energy acquisition
- interactions, including interactions significant to humans
The taxonomic level (e.g. species, genus, family) of the groups that are being characterized varies. For most of the descriptions I give a genus name but the description usually characterizes a bigger group, often an entire phylum. You should appreciate that almost all taxonomic entities have aberrant forms that may not fit into the description given. For example, I use the genus Rhizopus to represent the bread molds, a phylum of fungi. Not all members of this group are exactly like Rhizopus but the description does characterize many of the members of this group.
Note that this book is NOT organized by groups but rather by important features that organisms possess: structure, modes of reproduction, means of matter and energy acquisition, and interactions with other organisms and with the physical environment. Because of this, much of the information for any particular group may not come into focus until reading the ‘textbook’ part of the book.