Scientific names

If you think scientific names are difficult or confusing, that's probably because nobody ever bothered to explain the system to you. Its really quite easy and very useful. Its unambiguous, and gets better result from search engines.....

Most plants and animals are known by at least 2 names, one scientific name, and one or more common names. Scientific names were first introduced in the sixteenth century by Jean and Gaspard Bauhin, Swiss brothers who were botanists. Each kind of plant or animal has a two part name, just as we do. One part of the name is shared by a related group of similar kinds of things, the second part of the name applies to individuals. The Bauhin brothers used Greek and Latin names, because they were the languages which, in those days, educated people used. The good news is that you don’t need to master either of these languages. Just a few words are used often. There’s a cheat sheet available. Scientific names are usually either simple descriptions or honour a person. Building on this system of naming, Carl Linnaeus, an eighteenth century Swedish botanist, developed a system of classifying all living organisms. Now known as Linnaean taxonomy, this provides a logical, unambiguous and internationally used system of naming organisms.
Organisms are sorted into increasingly precise groups. In order of increasing similarity, the taxonomic groupings are :-

Kingdom - Phylum - Class - Order - Genus - Species.

Members of the same species are sufficiently alike that they can interbreed. Organisms are given a two-part name which denotes their genus and species. The genus name always begins with a capital letter and the species name with a small one.

We are named and classified as follows :-

Kingdom = Animalia (animals, not plants).
  Phylum = Chordata (approximately having a spinal chord, not like slugs or snails).
     Class = Mammalia (mammals, creatures which suckle their young, not like reptiles or birds).
       Order = Primates (not like rodents or sea-mammals).
         Family = Hominidae (great apes not like lemurs).
           Genus = Homo (past and present humans, not like chimps and gorillas).
              Species = sapiens (modern man, excludes ancestral man).

So the correct name for modern man is “Homo sapiens”. The origins of the words are Latin, homo meaning man or human and sapiens meaning intelligent. This name was assigned by Linnaeus in 1758. Names and dates of the first person to describe a species are still retained.

Here is an example shows the benefits of using proper names. Regular summer visitors to Julian Rocks are some large and beautiful spotted sharks. Their scientific name is Stegostoma fasciatum and there is no confusion over that. Here they are called leopard sharks, however, in some parts of the world they are called zebra sharks. To add to the confusion, in the US, the name leopard shark is given to a completely different animal, Triakis semifasciata.