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"Official" common names, more useful than scientific names!

Discussion in 'Tarantula Questions & Discussions' started by gambite, Nov 18, 2009.

  1. gambite

    gambite Arachnoprince

    In doing research for some related schoolwork, I found this interesting article on the common names of tarantulas.


    "Arthropod scientific names follow a strict set of rules adopted by the International Commission
    on Zoological Nomenclature, and published in the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature.
    The intent of the code is to encourage stability, accuracy, and universality of an organism’s
    scientific name (Bosik 1997). However, scientific names do change for reasons including priority,
    improper use of Latin, misidentification, and many other causes. Common names have been
    demostrated as more stable than scientific names. In a few cases, the scientific name for species
    has changed multiple times in a relatively short period of time, while the common name for the
    actual organism was never altered."

    "Many arachnologists believe that the
    scientific name itself is sufficient. This is suitable for trained scientists, however, arachnologists
    dealing with the public may rapidly discover the relative value of a common name. Should they
    attempt to encourage the use of, for example, Achaearanea tepidariorum (C. L. Koch), instead of
    using the term common house spider, perhaps the most frequently encountered spider in the United
    States, their opinions may quickly change. Most workers in public extension services, especially
    those dealing with agriculture, appreciate having standardized arthropod common names available."

    A very interesting read! I dont know much about the organization behind it though, how "official" and authoritative are these names? I definitely see their point, though. It is very confusing to see Brachypelma smithi referred to as Euthalus smithi, and I am still not sure exactly what the "official" scientific name for the Singapore Blue or Tiger Rump are.
  2. Cyriopagopus sp. "Blue" (Singapore Blue) and which Tiger Rump are you referring to? Cyclosternum fasciatum, Cyriocosmus elegans..? This my friend, is why scientific names are better used than common names. If a scientific name is being changed, my best recommendation is to keep up.
  3. Basically, the article is aimed at "dumbing it down" for the general public. It isn't saying that there's anything more accurate about using approved common names, just hinting that "common folk" are too dumb to be able to grasp scientific names.

    I guess the truth of this may lie within the audience you are dealing with.
  4. If you want to maximize accuracy and consistency of communication, then scientific names are to be preferred. But, as formal scientific names are placeholders for our hypotheses referring to organisms, and science is not about establishing immutable understanding, scientific names have, do, and will continue to change. There's no way to avoid that - it's the nature of doing science.
  5. jayefbe

    jayefbe Arachnoprince

    Yup, those quotes mention dealing with the "public" more than once. It's basically saying it's easier to communicate with a layperson without the big clunky latin names. Which is true. If I'm showing my friends my T's, I might use common names. Without any research into tarantulas something like "pinktoe" or "orange baboon tarantula" will still evoke a visual image. Pterinochilus murinus will mean nothing to them.

    If, on the other hand, I'm dealing with anyone that knows anything about tarantulas I will only use scientific names. While these names do change occasionally, they do have some benefits. There is always only one correct scientific name for a species at any given time, one scientific name can't be applied to two different species (at least not intentionally), and there is a phylogenetic history associated with each name. Everyone automatically knows that Pterinochilus murinus and Pterinochilus chordatus are closely related to each other. Further research, and we know that the genus Pterinochilus is part of the subfamily Harpactirinae, and so are closely related to the Augacephalus genus. This information is buried within each scientific name, something that common names lack.

    It's funny, I study plants and know the scientific names for a LOT of plant groups, but very few common names. If I'm talking to an avid gardener, it's difficult to communicate since I only pay attention to scientific names while they usually only know common names.
  6. gambite

    gambite Arachnoprince

    When I first started keeping, that was indeed the name used for Singapore Blue, but more recently I have heard that it has been changed to Lapropelma something. Or do I have it backwards? And I was referring to Cyclosternum fasciatum, but I have also heard some say that it has been reclassified as Davus fasciatum. Which is it?

    Bill, that is a pretty egotistical view. Common people know little about tarantulas, and not everyone has a science background. Why should anyone expect them to understand a concept that is completely foreign to them?

    Remember, this is a pet keeping forum, not a scientific community. Treating people like idiots just because they dont speak your language is pretty rude, both on the internet and in day-to-day life. And I am not talking about just you, Bill. This attitude is pretty widespread.
    Last edited: Nov 18, 2009
  7. jayefbe

    jayefbe Arachnoprince

    Regardless of what type of forum this is, using common names for tarantulas is simply infeasible. I'm not saying this because I'm egotistical, or because I look down on those that don't know scientific names. I'm saying this because there are thousands of tarantula species and there are only so many 'bird eater' or 'baboon tarantula' or 'pinktoe' descriptions before you start getting repetitive. If I call something a 'white-knee bird eater', what am I talking about? You don't know, I don't know. Simply put, if anyone wants to get into this hobby seriously, they need to learn scientific names. It's not some type of initiation, or a way to appear smarter than everyone else. It's simply a necessity.

    Yes, there are issues with scientific names. Things are constantly being reclassified, moved, renamed. But at least these name changes are done in an effort to more accurately reflect the evolutionary history of each species.
  8. BiologicalJewels

    BiologicalJewels Arachnoknight

    First off, as far as I know:

    Cyriopagopus sp. "blue" = Singapore BLue = Lampropelma violaceops

    Tiger Rump = Cyclosternum fasciatum

    Dwarf Tiger Rump = Cyriocosmus elegans

    It is my opinion that if you are at all interested in knowing what you keep, you must use it's current (see: keeping up ) scientific name. This is the ONLY way to correctly identify a specimen.
    This is also incredibly important for breeders. Can you imagine a breeder (or anyone else for that matter) not knowing the scientific names and breeding "pinktoes".

    yup, there's a problem there my friend.

    However, as someone already mentioned, it really comes down to what audience you are talking to. When giving a presentation to a group of second graders, one can say "This is an Avicularia avicularia", but chances are they will be more receptive and interested in it if you simply call it a "Pinktoe".

  9. When I first started out I had to make flash cards just to learn the scientific names of my Ts. Now, I cant even remember the common names I was trying to get away from. It just takes time. But after so long, we can all be the cool scientific sounding people other's are jealous of.
    And when I hear "white-knee bird eater" I think of A.geniculata. But I could be wrong.
  10. One doesn't have to have a scientific background to use formal scientific names, much less understand the concept behind a name any more than understanding the basis for a common name. But, for those who avail themselves of the wealth of information available on AB, we do see on a regular basis that there are opportunities to know when formal name changes occur, as well as web sites available to check the current availability of names (e.g. The World Spider Catalog).

    This isn't just a 'pet keeping' forum. It's also a place to discuss scientific, environmental, conservation, etc., issues related to tarantulas. All in all, the best way to ensure consistency and ease of communication on such a forum is to use scientific names.
  11. BCscorp

    BCscorp Arachnoprince Old Timer

    This is what happens at my place.
    Guest:"oh my...you have lots of spiders...whats the blue one called?"
    Me: "that my friend is a Poecilotheria metallica or commonly called a Gooty Sapphire Ornamental"
    Guest: "Wow you even know their scientific names!"
    Me: "Yes, its important to know both in my opinion."
  12. ArachnoYak

    ArachnoYak Arachnoknight

    Why is it that these threads pop up over and over again and are usually started by someone who is too lazy to learn scientific names? The effort that was put into finding that article would have been better spent looking up any latin names that have eluded you. Scientific names should be learned for any animal you chose to care for in your home as they are the only reliable way to gain accurate information. Kind of reminds me of the people who deny global warming exists and use every bit of their time providing pseudo-evidence to deny the fact. Please, nobody reply to the global warming quip as it's a whole other ball of wax and the focus is on binomial nomenclature here. Anyone keeping any animal or even learning about an animal or plant for that matter, should make every effort to learn it's latin name. The push to standardize common names for any species of animal other than the most obvious(lion, tiger, bear, etc.) is pointless.
  13. jayefbe

    jayefbe Arachnoprince

    For the most part, it would be describing A. geniculata. But it could also be a number of other Acanthoscurria or even Nhandu Chromatus. The point is that even a generally accepted common name could just as easily be placed on a number of similar species.
  14. I think it's a good idea to try and keep up with both sides of the name issue. It is nice to be able to refer to both names at different times.
  15. agreed. Im on your side man. I use scientific names only just to keep from having any misunderstandings.
  16. jayefbe

    jayefbe Arachnoprince

    Yeah, a scientific name you KNOW what is being discussed. Any common name, you're about 75-90% certain.
  17. metallica

    metallica Arachnoking Old Timer

    they are an official pain in the ass!
  18. BrettG

    BrettG Arachnoprince

    Well,I for one am TERRIBLE with foreign languages. Try as I may,I have never been able to pick them up.Probably could not to save my life either..... So for some of us it is not "laziness"Now I MAY know the Latin names of my T's,but I could never pronounce any of them properly.I would sound like a flipping idiot trying.
  19. You're not being required to learn Latin, and no one can hear your pronunciation here. Just as many of the everyday words you use are derived from Latin and Greek, learning a scientific name requires no more effort than a common name. But scientific names ensure greater ease of accurately communicating.
  20. Mad Hatter

    Mad Hatter Arachnobaron Old Timer

    I completely agree.

    Maybe it's just my obsessive compulsive personality, but I like to label my tanks and cards:

    Scientific name
    Common Name
    "Personal Name"

    So that's three names total, for each of my Ts. :)

    It's true that most non-T-owners are a lot more comfortable with common names because they just don't understand scientific names, at least IME that has been the case. In fact, they are often more comfortable with the "personal name" (the "pet" name) than the common name!

    And if you take the time to explain to them why the scientific names are important, they can see the point of it quickly.

    People aren't dumb, but not everyone knows as much about Ts as people like us who keep them.

    I sure didn't know much when I first joined AB. And after 5 years of keeping Ts, I am still learning new things.