Scientific Name- Definition, Rules, Examples, Nomenclature

Scientific nomenclature refers to various names according to a specific field of study. Usually, animals & plants are identified by common and scientific names.

Scientific Name
Scientific Name

Binomial Name

  • The binomial name consists of a genus name and a specific epithet.  
  • Internationally recognized standards govern the format for writing scientific names of animals and plants.
  • Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus established the protocol for naming species and created the system of “binomial nomenclature.”
  • He first employed this system in his book Species Plantarum which was published in the year 1753.

International Codes of Nomenclature

  • Taxonomists have established several “codes” for scientific nomenclature. 
  • These codes are universal and are periodically updated by consensus. 
  • Scientists in the mid-1800s agreed upon an expanded nomenclature system. 

The following codes are used today:

  1. International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants
  2. International Code of Zoological Nomenclature
  3. International Code of Nomenclature of Prokaryotes
  4. International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants
  5. International Code of Phytosociological Nomenclature
  6. International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses

International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants

It is the set of guidelines and recommendations that control the scientific naming of all organisms previously categorized as algae, fungi, or plants, whether they are fossil or non-fossil. This includes blue-green algae (Cyanobacteria), chytrids, oomycetes, slime molds, and photosynthetic protists along with their taxonomically related non-photosynthetic groups (but excluding Microsporidia).

International Code of Zoological Nomenclature

The ICZN produces and disseminates information on how to correctly use the scientific names of animals, serving as an advisor and arbiter for the zoological community.

The International Code of Zoological Nomenclature, a set of guidelines for animal naming and the solution of nomenclatural issues, is established by the ICZN.

International Code of Nomenclature of Prokaryotes

Prokaryotes, comprising eubacteria and archaebacteria or archaea, are classified according to the International Committee on Systematics of Prokaryotes (ICSP) and the International Code of Nomenclature of Bacteria.

International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants  

The ICNCP is a manual for naming cultigens, or plants whose origin or selection is primarily attributable to deliberate human action.

Grexes, Groupings (cultivar groups), and Cultigens all fall under the scope of the ICNCP.

It includes all species that are typically classified as plants, including fungi and alga.

Taxa that are given names under the ICNCP will also be included in the taxa named under the International Code of Nomenclature for Algae, Fungi, and Plants.

International Code of Phytosociological Nomenclature 

It consists of definitions, principles, articles, recommendations, and a guide to the correct formation of names of syntax based on the names of plant species.

International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses

ICTV is a committee of the Virology Division of the International Union of Microbiological Societies. 

The Statutes define the objectives of the ICTV are:

  1. Develop an internationally agreed taxonomy for viruses and other mobile genetic elements (MGEs) that are part of the virosphere.
  2. Develop internationally agreed names for virus taxa.
  3. Communicate taxonomic decisions to the international community of virologists.
  4. Maintain an Index of agreed names of virus taxa.

Taxonomic Hierarchy

The levels from highest to lowest classification are as follows:

Domain
Kingdom
Phylum
Class
Order
Family
Genus
Species

Rules for Writing a Scientific Name

  1. Scientific names are always italicized.  

In hand-written texts, it can be underlined instead, however when using a Word processor, there is no justification for not italicizing.

Example: Bos taurus, not Bos taurus.

  1. The genus is always capitalized, even when occurred in the middle of the sentence.

Example: Antibiotic resistance observed in Escherchia coli.

  1. The species is never capitalized, even when it refers to the name of a place or person.  

Example: Juniperus virginiana, not Juniperus Virginia.

  1. The subspecies is always formatted in the same way as the species; lowercase and italicized. If the subspecies name is the same as the species name (e.g., the tiger Panthera tigris tigris), the species can be abbreviated to the first letter (Panthera t. tigris).
  2. If a species is unknown, the abbreviation “sp.” is used in place of the species name and is non-italicized. 

The abbreviation “spp.” is similarly used to indicate a group of unknown species. 

The term “sp. novo” is used to indicate a species that is being described for the first time.

  1. The genus is always written in full when it is used for the first time within a specific document.

The first initial and a period can be used to shorten the genus in subsequent uses.

Example: “Escherichia coli is a lactose fermenting Gram-negative bacteria. The cases of antibiotic resistance E. coli has been reported frequently.”

  1. If two species from different genera have the same abbreviation for their genus, the full genus should be written to avoid confusion.  

Example: Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus pyogenes instead of S. aureus and S. pyogenes.

  1. A species name is never used without a genus or genus abbreviation.  

Example: Tribolium confusum or T. confusum but never just confusum.  

  1. Genus by itself can be used to refer to multiple species within the genus.  

Example: There are many species of Drosophila that are affected by exposure to alcohol.

  1. If a common name is used, it is first defined in terms of its scientific name. 

Example: Pan troglodytes (chimpanzee)

  1. The initials or full name of the scientist who named or discovered the species may appear after the scientific name in some cases. The scientist or the individual’s name is not to be italicized.

Example: Juncus inflexus L.. 

Carolus Linnaeus, an eminent scientist whose name was Latinized, was abbreviated to “L”

Scientific Name of plants

The name of the pants at the end generally ends with the plural adjective which in Latin is “aceae”. The adjective used generally describes the genus or the family characteristics to which the particular plant belongs.

Some of the Scientific names of common plants are as given below:

Common Name Scientific Name
ApplePyrus malus
Bamboo Bamboosa aridinarifolia
BrinjalSolanum melongena
BananaMusa × paradisiaca
Black GramVigna mungo
BanyanFicus benghalensis
BarleyHordeum vulgare

Scientific Name of Animals

The system of naming the animals is similar to that of the plant’s naming system. During the nomenclature of the animals, the genus comes first and then is followed by the species.

Binomial Nomenclature
Binomial Nomenclature of Tiger.

Some of the scientific names of animals are as follows:

Common NameScientific Name
DogCanis familiaris
CatFelis catus
HorseEquus ferus caballus
SheepOvis aries
Domestic PigSus scrofa domesticus
Wild GoatCapra aegagrus hircus
Asian ElephantElephas maximus

Scientific names of extinct animals

Phylogenetic and evolutionary research has helped to connect the relationship of extinct animals with the surviving organisms, and its nomenclature is similar to the other organisms.

Some of the lists of the scientific names of extinct animals are as follows:

Common Name Scientific Name
Passenger pigeonEctopistes migratorius
Tasmanian tigerThylacinus cynocephalus
MoaDinornithiformes
T-RexTyrannosaurus rex
DolphinLipotes vexillifer

Drawbacks of using Common Name

Common names, in contrast to scientific names, are not exclusive. 

Therefore, using common names can cause misunderstandings regarding the animal being referred to and its relationships to other animals.

Example: Badgers 

Although they are all called badgers and they are all members of the same mammalian family, they are not each other’s closest relatives. There are various animals worldwide that are superficially similar.

  • Honey badgers (Mellivora capensis)
  • North American badgers (Taxidea taxus)
  • Eurasian badgers (Meles meles)
  • Stink badgers (Mydaus javanensis)
  • Ferret badgers (Melogale personata)

Importance of Scientific name

Eliminates confusion between nationalities that may have different common names for organisms by assigning them a universal name that acts as a code.

References

  1. Enago Academy. (2021). How to Write Scientific Names of Plant and Animal Species in Journal Manuscripts (Part 1). Accessed from: https://www.enago.com/academy/how-to-write-scientific-names-in-a-research-paper-animals-plants/
  2. International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants. (2017). Introductory Pages.
  3. Accessed from: https://www.iapt-taxon.org/nomen/main.php
  4. International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature. (2022). Welcome to the ICZN.
  5. Accessed from: https://www.iczn.org/
  6. International Committee on Systematics of Prokaryotes (ICSP). (2022). Code of Nomenclature.
  7. Accessed from: http://www.the-icsp.org/bacterial-code
  8. Myers, P., R. Espinosa, C. S. Parr, T. Jones, G. S. Hammond, and T. A. Dewey. 2022. The Animal Diversity Web (online).
  9. Accessed from: https://animaldiversity.org/animal_names/scientific_name/
  10. Ruten D. (2022). How to Write Scientific Names. Accessed from: https://www.scribendi.com/academy/articles/rules_for_writing_a_scientific_name.en.html
  11. The International Code of Virus Classification and Nomenclature (ICVCN). (2021). Statutory Basis for the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses.
  12. Accessed from: https://ictv.global/about/code
  13. Vanderbilt University. (2020). Scientific Name.
  14. Accessed from: https://researchguides.library.vanderbilt.edu/c.php?g=69346&p=831719
  15. Weber, H. & Moravec, J. & Theurillat, Jean-Paul. (2000). International Code of Phytosociological Nomenclature. Journal of Vegetation Science. 11. 739 – 768. 10.2307/3236580.

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