All organisms, living things, are assigned a two-word Latin-based name, which follow specific sets of rules.  This binomial (2 name) system was begun by Carolus Linnaeus, a Swedish botanist (he studied plants), in the 1740s.

The latin names are usually written in italics, with the first letter of the first name capitalised, e.g. Homo sapiens, which are modern humans.  The first name is sometimes seen as abbreviated to just the capital letter, e.g. H. sapiens.

The system of naming organisms is called taxonomy and comes from the way that everything can be classified into smaller and smaller groups until we are left with just the species we are talking about:

Biological Anthropology/Classification - WikiEducator

 

 

Left: The classification system.

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The genus makes up the first part name of the organism and the species the second part.  The names link the species being described to other, related species, traditionally with some giving clues of certain traits or characteristics. However, the system itself is evolving and scientists are becoming more creative with the names they give to newly discovered species – e.g. Coptoborus leia, a brown beetle acquired its name from a striking similarity to the signature brown buns worn by Princess Leia in Star Wars.

The biggest division, at the start of the process is the Kingdom, of which there are 5  – plants, animals, fungi, protists and monera.  But in the 1970s it was suggested that before Kingdom, there should be another, larger, group called a domain.  This is because some of the members of the Protista kingdom are more similar to plants or animals than to other protists.

a illustration of a rank-based naming system (Domain, Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species). A red fox (vulpes vulpes) is to the right of the illustration

 

Left: How the scientific name for the red fox is derived from the classification system including domains.

 

 

 

 

 

Some scientists have suggested that there should be a major overhaul in the way that species are named, yet others are determined to stick with tradition.

What do you think?

Until next time, Keep calm and apply some Science!

Read more:

What biologists call a species is becoming more than just a name

http://www.biology4kids.com/files/studies_taxonomy.html#:~:text=Scientists%20use%20a%20two%2Dname,the%20second%20is%20the%20species.&text=Humans%20are%20scientifically%20named%20Homo%20sapiens.

https://www.linnean.org/learning/who-was-linnaeus

https://www.livescience.com/carl-linnaeus.html