Scientific Nomenclature: How do we give scientific names?

In some cases the common name and scientific name are same. For example, Gorilla's scientfic name ... rel=
In some cases the common name and scientific name are same. For example, Gorilla's scientfic name is Gorilla gorilla gorilla.
© WWF-Canon / Martin Harvey
Why should one need a scientific name when a perfectly good common name is available? Because common names are so often imprecise or misleading. For example what is known by one name in one country may be known by another name in another country.

And when people all over the world speak so many different languages, one animal can have so many different names in different languages. In the scientific world, it is extremely important to know the precise information about the object we study and also to know what class or type it belongs to. The name must therefore be unique. Here are a few links that explain how such naming is done.

For a simple introduction to scientific names, visit this site. Once you know the simple rules that are used to name animals and plants, then remembering their scientific names becomes easy. For instance every species must have a unique name. Read the simple explanation on how taxonomy is used to classify animals - based on the common traits and their evolutionary history.

The most difficult part for students is to remember how to write the scientific names. What is captialised and what is not? What is the order in which the names are to be written? For a guide on how to write scientific names, visit this page. It tells you what is capitalized and what is not along with examples.

Did you know that just as streets and buildings are named after famous people, we can also name newly discovered animals and plants after people we like? As long as it is within the guidelines of the International Code of Zoologial Nomenclature (ICZN) and with no offensive wording, we can have insects and butterflies named after our favourite teacher or parent!

For example, sometimes the name can be chosen to honour or commemorate a person, such as a mantis shrimp, named Oratosquillina berentsae, in honour of Dr Penny Berents at the Australian Museum. Visit this site to know more about naming conventions and what we should do when a new species is discovered.

It is natural for us to think that once we assign a scientific name, it is likely to stay forever. As the authors say in this website, like all scientific hypotheses scientific nomenclature is subject to testing, and may be changed when new evidence appears or an error is detected.

So even though periodic name changes may be frustrating for students and some scientists, they actually represent improvements in our knowledge and understanding of the species in question. For a more detailed look at what scientific names mean, visit the link mentioned above.

Why do we use bionomial nomenclature (the combination of two names to create a scientific name)? This page gives an explanation of how this is done. There are hyperlinks to different terms used in nomenclature- genus, species, phylum. Go through the relevant sections to familiarize yourself with the scientific terms used.

A very comprehensive article on scientific classification with examples and with hyperlinks to relevant sections is available at this page. Read this article to know about the history of scientific naming and understand why certain changes and improvements were made to the naming system.

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