As a result of taxonomic uncertainty, generic and higher taxonomic ranks (family, order, class or phylum) are often treated as units in calculating diversity indices, instead of species. In this paper, the errors introduced by such practices are examined for various diversity indices (Shannon - Wiener Index, Maximum Information Index, Evenness, Margalef's Species Richness Index and Hurlbert's Probability of Interspecific Encounter). The use of higher taxonomic ranks may invalidate comparison of diversity indices. In a single study, substantial error and erroneous conclusion may arise, even if consistent practices are adopted. Copyright © 1982 Published by Elsevier Ltd.