|numerical taxonomy (n-měr'ĭ-kəl) Pronunciation Key
A method of taxonomy in which classification is made on the basis of a multivariate analysis of observable differences and similarities between taxonomic groups. Classifications based on numerical taxonomy reflect degrees of similarity rather than evolutionary relationships.
the multivariate analysis of many measurable features (taxonomic characters) to produce a biological classification. Because of the complexity of the analysis-many characters are measured on many individuals or a number of species-the use of a computer is virtually mandatory. No attempt is made, as in evolutionary taxonomy, to weight characters on the basis of their presumed roles in natural selection. For this reason, numerical taxonomy produces a classification that reflects "phenetic distances," i.e., degrees of similarity. Such classifications are rejected by many conventional taxonomists who feel that the relationships expressed in a classification should be strictly evolutionary. See also taxonomy.
Learn more about numerical taxonomy with a free trial on Britannica.com.