Botanical names of animals

The nomenclature is the system of scientific names for living beings and of rules for their formation and application. Depending on the object of investigation (plants, animals, etc.) there is a separate set of rules. The primary aim of the nomenclature rules is to ensure that the scientific names are unambiguous.

Form of the name

The scientific name of a species consists of two words: the first word is the genus name and the second word is the species epithet (or the Epithet specificum). The two words form the species name, which should be unique.

The generic name is written with a capital letter and may be a Latinized noun in the nominative singular.

The type epithet is (mostly) written in lower case and is a Latin or Latinized adjective or noun in the nominative singular or a noun in the genitive. An adjective must follow the genus name in grammatical gender and is adjusted accordingly if the genre is changed.

In the printed image, the scientific name should be either italic set or underlined be.


In the case of plant species, the genus name and the species epithet cannot be identical, e.g. B. the name Linaria linaria is not permitted (tautonymy).


For available scientific names (= nominal taxa) of animals the principle of binomial nomenclature applies. The species name consists of two nouns (singular nouns, here names); these form the overall name, which should be unique.

Species must have different names within a genus, but the same species epithet is permitted in different genera. In contrast to the botanical nomenclature code, the genus name and the species epithet in zoology can be identical (e.g. eagle owl: Bubo bubo).

Variations of this system are:

  • the indication of the name of the subspecies, which is written in lowercase after the species name (e.g. Homo sapiens sapiens)
  • the naming of cultivated forms by adding another lowercase name and the designation var. for variation, for example at Equus przewalski var. caballus - those from the domestic horse (Equus caballus) bred form of the Przewalski horse (Equus przewalski)
  • the designation of hybrids by specifying the species names of both parents, for example in the case of the mule (Equus caballus × asinus) that comes from a horse (E. caballus) and a donkey (E. asinus) was crossed.

Who gives the names?

The names are given by the researchers who describe the species for the first time. In order to clarify the origin of a name, the name of the author (often abbreviated) is appended to the scientific name in scientific literature. Carl von Linné, the 'father' of taxonomy, was the first to name many species. Hence, many plant names of the form can be found "Genus art L. ”, where“ L. ”stands for Linnaeus. If a species is assigned to a different genus than originally, the name / abbreviation of the systematic who first classified the species is written in brackets after the name. See the list of abbreviations used by biologists

Criteria for naming

The names of the genus and species group are often derived from a special characteristic (e.g. color, size, behavior), from the place of discovery or from a personal name. The name is usually assigned by the author who properly introduced the genus or species.

If an editor considers several names to be synonyms of the same type, the oldest available name has priority (principle of priority).

See also: Quirky scientific names from biology and medicine - on the principle freedom of the author to assign the name, provided that no fundamental rules are violated

International regulations on nomenclature

Today the following sets of rules (nomenclature codes) are accepted:

Phylocode and BioCode are newly proposed but not yet accepted. The BioCode would like to introduce a uniform system of nomenclature for all living beings with the exception of viruses, i.e. to replace the systems ICBN, IRZN, ICBN and ICNCP. The PhyloCode intends to give rules for the designation of all hierarchical groupings above the species.

Problems in standardizing the existing systems of nomenclature are caused by the not so few cases in which the same scientific generic name was used in both the animal and the vegetable kingdoms. For example, the generic name means Oenanthe in the plant kingdom the water fennel (Apiaceae), in the animal kingdom the wheatear (birds, Muscicapidae). Other generic names used twice are, for example Alsophila,Ammophila,Arenaria, ...

See also

Category: Taxonomy