Cladistics is a system which scientists use to identify and classify animals and plants.
Cladistics trys to help answer the following questions:
Paleontologists in particular use cladistics as a method of classifying fossil remains of plants and animals by common ancestry. Fossils are cleaned and examined using a variety of methods. Features such as the shape, weight, chemical composition and age (how long ago the plant or animal lived) are assembled together.
- what kind of animal or plant is this a fossil of?
- what other plants or animals (living or fossilized) does it most resemble?
- how did it evolve?
During examination, the scientists try to place the organism on a "family tree" which can help show how it might be related to other organisms.
Organisms that share common ancestors (and therefore have similar features)
are grouped into groups called clades. Cladistics can also be used to predict properties of yet-to-be discovered organisms.