Difference between Phylum and Division

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What is Phylum?

Phylum is a taxonomic division that is placed below the level of kingdom. It is a category that has always been found in the animal kingdom.

Phylum is a taxonomic rank that is above class, and is used when grouping animals together. Haeckel originally proposed the use of the term phylum to indicate groups of animals within the kingdom animalia.

Phyla can be thought of as groupings of organisms based on general specialization of their body plan. Often there is also a common ancestor. Phylum is the largest group below kingdom into which similar groups of animals can be placed. This is the level above the class level.

Difference between Phylum and Division

Phyla tend to include organisms that feed by ingesting particles, that is are heterotrophs.

Most recently, researchers have placed members of the protista into phyla while in the past protista were placed in divisions. Bacteria also were placed in divisions and now are placed in phyla.

What is Division?

Division is a taxonomic division that is placed below the level of kingdom. It is a category used outside of the animal and protist kingdom.

It is used in botany (study of plants), and mycology (study of fungi), to refer to the groups of plants and fungi below the level of kingdom but above the level of class.

Historically plants and fungi have been placed in divisions instead of phyla; thus the individual organisms found within the kingdom fungi and plantae are further divided into divisions.

The early system of plant taxonomy, known as the Eichler system first placed plants into divisions.

A division, when used to group plants together is the equivalent of the animal phylum category.

Organisms placed in divisions are those which can photosynthesize (are autotrophs), or take in nutrients saprophytically from a substrate.

Recently many researchers have done away with this term and replaced division with phylum.

What is the difference between Phylum and Division?

  1. Phylum is the category of classification of individuals in the animal kingdom, while division is the category of classification of individuals in the plant kingdom.
  2. Division is the category of classification for individuals in the fungal kingdom.
  3. Division was the old term for the classification of protista below kingdom level. Now they are known as phyla.
  4. The term phylum was created by Haeckel while division was created by Eichler.
  5. A phylum includes heterotrophs, while a division includes autotrophs and saprotrophs.

Table comparing Phylum and Division



  • Phyla and divisions both classification categories below the level of kingdom.
  • Phyla include the members of the animal kingdom while division includes members of the plant and fungal kingdoms.
  • Kingdom Protista used to have divisions but these have since changed to phyla.
  • A phylum traditionally has included heterotrophic individuals while division has included the autotrophic and saprophytic individuals.

Author: Dr. Rae Osborn

Dr. Rae Osborn holds Honours Bachelor of Science degrees in Zoology and Entomology, and Masters of Science in Entomology from the University of Natal in South Africa. She has received a PhD in Quantitative Biology from the University of Texas at Arlington. She was a tenured Associate Professor of Biology at Northwestern State University in Louisiana for 10 years. She also completed an AAS Degree in Information Network Specialist and an AAS in Computer Information Systems, at Bossier Parish Community College in Louisiana.

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