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Scientific specialization (natural sciences from natural history)

weather essential to its survival. This kind of knowledge has since been categorized as "folk systematics" and "folk ecology."

Folk systematics concerns the identification and classification of animals (and plants) important to the social groups, based on gross morphological similarities or differences among the animals as well as on the utility of the animals to the group. Each distinct kind of animal had a name and was part of hierarchically arranged categories, much as they are today. For the most part, observations of biological discontinuities used in preliterate societies have been shown to correspond closely to those now recognized in modern classification schemes, and a large portion of their individually named animals and plants correspond with currently recognized taxa.10-13

Preliterate societies could recognize an average of 520 plants and 390 animals, based on studies of more modern, yet still primitive, societies. The memory and verbal abilities of individuals, rather than the biological diversity of the region, limited the number of animals and plants that could be identified. With the advent of writing, literate societies expanded upon this basic system of identification and classification, which continued to suffice until 1758, when Carolus Linnaeus (Carl von Linné) codified the folk systematics of Europe into a scientific system using Latin binomial (genus and species) names for each animal and plant.11,13

In addition to information on specific kinds of animals and plants, preliterate societies were intimately knowledgeable about the habitats of these animals and plants. This folk ecology included information about the weather and seasons, the geography of the region, the location of water sources, animal behavior, and the germination and growth of plants — environmental information that was essential to the emergence of domestication and agriculture.14-16

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