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5 Kingdoms of classification

The world contains roughly 8.7 million species! Most of which we haven’t even discovered yet! In fact only 14% of the world’s species have yet been identified and only 9% of those in the oceans. With so many organisms in existence we need some way to categorise and group them. This is called classification. Our first major group of classification is called kingdoms. 


  1. What are the 5 kingdoms of classifications?
  2. What are the features of each kingdom?
  3. What organisms go into each kingdom?
  4. What are the characteristics of a cell that help group the organism?

Scientists have been classifying organisms into the 5 kingdoms for over 250 years. However, as technology and science evolve so does our understanding of the world. To help us understand what goes into each of these kingdoms, we need to know a little bit about cells. 


Cells are the building blocks of life. Similar to how you use bricks to build a house, cells build you and me.

Something with just one cell is called, unicellular (like bacteria), but something with multiple cells (animals, plants and fungi) is called multicellular

Scientists will ask themselves 3 questions about the cells of an organisms when trying to categories it into a kingdom. 

  1. Is the DNA inside a nucleus or is it free floating?
  2.  Does the cell have a cell wall? 
  3. Does it make it’s own food (autotroph) or get it’s nutrients for other living things (heterotroph). 
By answering these questions you can categories organisms into their kingdoms.

Which of the following do you think make their own food? Scroll over each image to find out. 



Plants are autotrophs, meaning they make their own food. They do this by a process called 'photosynthesis'.



Lions are heterotrophs. They eat other living things to get their energy and nutrients.



Mushrooms are heterotrophs. They break down other organisms for nutrients.



Phytoplankton are tiny, microscopic marine algae. They are autotrophs meaning they create their own food. They do this via photosynthesis.

5 kingdoms

Select each of the kingdoms below for more information.

To fit into this kingdom you need to: 

  • be multicellular,
  • store the genetic material in a nucleus,
  • have no cell wall, and
  • gain energy from other living things. 

Humans, insects, fish and birds  all belong to this kingdom.

To fit into this kingdom you need to be: 

  • multicellular,
  • store your genetic material in a nucleus,
  • have a cell wall, and
  • gain energy by making your own food from sunlight. 

Trees, shrubs, bushes and vines all fit into this kingdom.

To fit into this kingdom you need to be: 

  • multicellular or unicellular,
  • store your genetic material in a nucleus,
  • have a cell wall, and
  • gain energy by feeding on other animals or plants. 

Mushrooms, yeast, mould and truffles are all under the Fungi kingdom. 

To fit into this kingdom you need to be: 

  • unicellular,
  • not store your genetic material in a nucleus, and
  • have a cell wall.

Bacteria are an example of Monera. 

Protista is an interesting kingdom. Often organisms that don’t fit into the other kingdoms will end up here. They are more complex than Protista, but can range in size from a single cell to a multicellular organisms. 

They do however all have their DNA in a nucleus. 

Plankton, Kelp and Amoebas belong to this group.


Try this matching activity. Drag and drop the terms below into their correct kingdom. Sort out only, what all organisms in the kingdom have in common.

Science is very broad. It encompasses everything from how to launch a rocket into space, to how a single celled organisms survives in its environment. 

When a scientists specialises in a certain area of study, they are called something different. Below are a few examples of different types of scientists.

  • Taxonomists study classification methods. 
  • Zoologists study animals. 
  • Botanists study plants. 
  • Mycologists study fungi. 
  • Microbiologists study microorganisms. 
  • Immunologists study the immune system. 


  • There are 5 main kingdoms. Animalia, Plantae, Fungi, Monera and Protista. 

  • You can classify organisms into each kingdom by asking 3 questions about their cells and characteristics. 
  • Each kingdom has a unique set of properties for their organisms. 

Test your knowledge

Click the ‘question mark’ to test your knowledge with some questions and activities.


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