All living things are identified and categorised on the basis of their body design in form and function. Some characteristics are likely to make more wide-ranging changes in body design than others. There is a role of time in this as well. So, once a certain body design comes into existence, it will shape the effects of all other subsequent design changes, simply because it already exists. In other words, characteristics that came into
existence earlier are likely to be more basic than characteristics that have come into existence later.
This means that the classification of life forms will be closely related to their evolution. What is evolution? Most life forms that we see today have arisen by an accumulation of changes in body design that allow the organism possessing them to survive better. Charles Darwin first described this idea of evolution in 1859 in his book, The Origin of Species.
When we connect this idea of evolution to classification, we will find some groups of organisms which have ancient body designs that have not changed very much. We will also find other groups of organisms that have acquired their particular body designs relatively recently. Those in the first group are frequently referred to as ‘primitive’ or ‘lower’ organisms, while those in the second group are called ‘advanced’ or ‘higher’ organisms. In reality, these terms are not quite correct since hey do not properly relate to the differences. All that we can say is that some are ‘older’
organisms, while some are ‘younger’ organisms. Since there is a possibility that complexity in design will increase over evolutionary time, it may not be wrong to say that older organisms are simpler, while younger organisms are more complex.