AskDefine | Define subfamily

Dictionary Definition

subfamily n : (biology) a taxonomic category below a family

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. A taxonomic category ranking between a family and a genus; formerly called a tribe


Extensive Definition

In biological classification, family (Latin: familia, plural familiae) is a taxonomic rank. Exact details of formal nomenclature depend on the Nomenclature Code which applies.
Example: "Walnuts and Hickories belong to the Walnut family" is a brief way of saying: the Walnuts (genus Juglans) and the Hickories (genus Carya) belong to the Walnut family (family Juglandaceae).

History of the concept

Family, as a rank intermediate between order and genus, is a relatively recent invention.
The term familial was coined by French botanist Pierre Magnol in his Prodromus historiae generalis plantarum, in quo familiae plantarum per tabulas disponuntur (1689) where he called families (familiae) the seventy-six groups of plants he recognised in his tables. The concept of rank at that time was still in statu nascendi, and in the preface to the Prodromus Magnol spoke of uniting his families into larger genera, which is far from how the term is used today.
Since the beginning of the 20th century, however, the term has been consistently used in its modern sense. Its usage and characteristic ending of the names belonging to this category are defined in the Codes of botanical and zoological nomenclature.
Almost all families are named for a type genus, and are formed by adding the ending -idae (animals) or -aceae (plants) to the stem of the genus name. Exceptions are:
  • Caprifoliaceae, Aquifoliaceae, and Fabaceae, named for their type species Lonicera caprifolium, Ilex aquifolia, and Vicia faba.
  • Theaceae, named for Thea, a synonym of Camellia.
  • Eight families of plants with alternate names. Fabaceae is also called Leguminosae, Poaceae Gramineae, etc.
  • Elapidae. The type genus is Homoroselaps, which was originally named Elaps but was temporarily moved to a different family and the name changed as a result.

See also

subfamily in Tosk Albanian: Familie (Biologie)
subfamily in Aragonese: Familia (biolochía)
subfamily in Bosnian: Porodica (biologija)
subfamily in Breton: Kerentiad
subfamily in Catalan: Família (biologia)
subfamily in Czech: Čeleď (biologie)
subfamily in Welsh: Teulu (bioleg)
subfamily in Danish: Familie (biologi)
subfamily in German: Familie (Biologie)
subfamily in Estonian: Sugukond (bioloogia)
subfamily in Modern Greek (1453-): Οικογένεια (βιολογία)
subfamily in Spanish: Familia (biología)
subfamily in Esperanto: Familio (biologio)
subfamily in Basque: Familia (biologia)
subfamily in French: Famille (biologie)
subfamily in Western Frisian: Famylje
subfamily in Galician: Familia (bioloxía)
subfamily in Korean: 과 (생물학)
subfamily in Croatian: Porodica (taksonomija)
subfamily in Indonesian: Familia
subfamily in Icelandic: Ætt (flokkunarfræði)
subfamily in Italian: Famiglia (tassonomia)
subfamily in Hebrew: משפחה (טקסונומיה)
subfamily in Javanese: Familia
subfamily in Georgian: ოჯახი (ბიოლოგია)
subfamily in Luxembourgish: Famill (Biologie)
subfamily in Lithuanian: Šeima
subfamily in Hungarian: Család (rendszertan)
subfamily in Maltese: Familja
subfamily in Malay (macrolanguage): Famili (biologi)
subfamily in Dutch: Familie (biologie)
subfamily in Japanese: 科 (分類学)
subfamily in Norwegian: Familie (biologi)
subfamily in Norwegian Nynorsk: Biologisk familie
subfamily in Occitan (post 1500): Familha (biologia)
subfamily in Low German: Familie (Biologie)
subfamily in Polish: Rodzina (biologia)
subfamily in Portuguese: Família (biologia)
subfamily in Romanian: Familie (biologie)
subfamily in Russian: Семейство
subfamily in Sicilian: Famigghia (bioluggìa)
subfamily in Simple English: Family (biology)
subfamily in Slovak: Čeľaď (taxonómia)
subfamily in Slovenian: Družina (biologija)
subfamily in Swedish: Familj (biologi)
subfamily in Tagalog: Pamilya (biyolohiya)
subfamily in Telugu: కుటుంబము (జీవశాస్త్రం)
subfamily in Vietnamese: Họ (sinh học)
subfamily in Turkish: Familya
subfamily in Ukrainian: Родина (біологія)
subfamily in Venetian: Fameja (tasonomìa)
subfamily in Chinese: 科 (生物)
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