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The history and usage of species names and a brief discussion on money

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I wanted to try writing sciencey stuff here along with other topics so I’m starting with this post. Something has been bugging me for a long time about this topic anyway.


Binomial nomenclature

The system of naming biological organisms was developed by Carolus Linnaeus with the publication of the tenth edition of his book Systema Naturae on 1758.  Since then it has been adopted by the scientific community as the universal system for naming biological organisms. The use of the binomial nomenclature system can be attributed to its two key benefits.

from wikipedia

Firstly, it is used solve the problem that a particular species is known by many names. A single species of bird, for example, may have many different names in many countries. To avoid confusion, a scientist will instead use the binomial name so that other scientists all over the word will know which bird he is referring to as the scientific name of the bird is (in principle) the same all over the world.

Secondly, as wikipedia explains, using this system confers consistency to names after much modification and reclassification (as taxonomists do with many organisms).


Rules in writing scientific names using binomial nomenclature

Let’s take our own species as an example. This is the correct way to present a scientific name:

Homo sapiens

The first word, Homo (and if you giggle at this, you’re an idiot), is the name of our genus. We belong to the genus Homo along with our close relatives, the Neanderthals (Homo neanderthalensis) and other examples. The second word, sapiens, is the name of the modern human species in particular. Thus we belong to the genus Homo and specifically, the name of our species is sapiens***.

Homo (<-genus name) sapiens (<-specific descriptor)

In writing by this system, one must follow these simple rules:

A. In typing a name of a species, use a different font for it which is distinct from the rest of the text. Using italics is the conventional way of doing this. If you are using your handwriting, underline both words instead.

“I found the skull of an early Homo sapiens in the cave”

A Neanderthal man

B. The genus name is always written with an initial capital letter. The specific descriptor is always written in all lower case. Please please please… do not write species names in all caps.

Homo sapiens


Epic fails in presenting species names

Now that you know the rules in writing species names, you can see that a lot of times people don’t actually use them correctly.

Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (Central Bank of the Philippines)

I’m so ashamed. You know how recently the Bangko Sentral released the new design for the peso bills? Well, if you look at the “backs” of the bills (the side showing scenery instead of people), they have a picture of an endemic species of animal from somewhere in the Philippines and it’s shown with its English name and its scientific name…

Aaaargh! Aaaargh! Aaaargh! Why?!? †

Note that not only does it begin the specific descriptor in upper case, it also fails to italicize the text.

Here’s another example of species names gone wrong.

So next time, be sure to apply the rules on using the binomial nomenclature system in writing species names. I might be blogging about your mistakes if you don’t. :P


* and I was still in a “good” school at this point

** part of the reason why at a later point I wasn’t in that “good” school anymore

*** and by “our” I mean all of humanity excluding the CBCP

†   I copied this from somewhere as I don’t have a scanner or, for that matter, any money.


Written by rubiscodisco

May 31, 2011 at 1:55 pm

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First post

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Hello world!

Just wanted you to know I will be starting a blog here so I hope to catch you on my later posts.

Nullus anxietas :)

Written by rubiscodisco

May 31, 2011 at 8:35 am

Posted in Uncategorized