Thursday, January 15, 2009

Binomial Nomenclature: the "Two Part Name"

I have a theory about everyone's confusion when it comes to names for organisms. Apparently, people wonder why Biologists, Zoologists, and Paleontologists use what's commonly referred to as "Scientific Names." This confuses people and when they were "in the dark" about a certain subject. I think it would be a good idea to cover the history of this classification system and how it's used. (Author's note: Information was obtained from Wikipedia.)

This classification system started with Swedish Botanist and physician Carolus Linnaeus (1707 – 1778). His interest in the natural world led him to attempt to describe the known world and started using the now globally used system of Binomial Nomenclature. However, this system was used even before Linnaeus about 200 years. He's credited with the invention of the system because no-one used the system until after Linnaeus. (Author's note: That's my personal guess because I really have no clue.)

How To Use :
Binomial Nomenclature is a system that gives each organism a two-part "name." This "name" consists of the genus and then the species. The first name or genus' first letter is capitalized and is the "generic name" for the organism. The "species" is the specific type of that genus or organism. For Example, humans are referred to as Homo sapiens, with our genus Homo referrencing we're a hominid. The term sapien tells the kind of hominid. Also, note the terms are italicized when typed. When the terms are hand-written, the terms must be underlined separately.

Another thing to remember about this system is that most of the terms are derrived from either Greek or Latin. For example, Tyrannosaurus rex means "tyrant lizard king" with "Tyranno" meaning tyrant and "saurus" coming from the Greek "sauros" meaning lizard. Rex means King. (Author's note: I don't know the language the term "rex" originated but I DO know that it means "king." However, I assume Latin or Greek because those're the most common languages used for this system.)

Why It's Used:
The reason Biologists, Zoologists and Paleontologists use this system is the simple barrier of language. Every language has it's term for the same thing. However, almost all languages derrived from a form of Latin, so Latin was used as the major language for this system. Scientists around the world needed a unified system (similar to the SI measurement system) to classify organisms and understand what each was talking about without confusion. See? It's pretty simple once you get the hang of it. In case you didn't catch on, the term "Binomial Nomenclature" means "two-part name." It also comes from one of the two Languages for the system. Can you guess which one?


t.k.foster said...

As an interesting side note, Latin is in high demand these days with the younger generation (though I couldn't tell you why).

I think an advantage that Latin offers in naming organisms is the fact that it can specify things better by using nominative cases with genitive cases if required. But I think you have the major point down that when science began to develop strongly with people in different cultures, Latin was the easily agreed upon language.

Raptor Lewis said...

Thanks, t.k. foster. It makes sense that they could agree on it as most languages (other than oriental) derrived from either Latin or Greek as illustrated in this post.

Schwoom said...

Plus, before Linnaeus, there were all these authors that would name things crazy, with 20+ descriptive words used to describe for one organism, where today, we stick with the much easier to remember, say, and write two names.