Scientific Names - Proper Binomial Nomenclature

Anoplogaster

Arachnodemon
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Hello everyone,

I often see a lot of variation in the way scientific names are written and pronounced in this hobby. As a person who comes from a science and museum background, I am hoping to clarify the proper usage of scientific names for anyone who is interested. There are very specific rules on this that I will talk about here:bookworm::writer:

First of all, a scientific name is the combination of a genus (plural "genera") name and a species name, and are the tail end of a long list of categories and subcategories. Please note that the word "species" is both singular and plural form. "Specie" is not proper. But not to worry. The way modern phylogenetics is going, they will probably all be referred to as clades and lineages in the future.... Stay tuned!;)

Proper format: So, believe it or not, there is actually a proper format to write and type scientific names. The genus always begins with a capital letter, and the species always begins with a lowercase letter. Additionally, scientific names are also always typewritten in italics. If they are handwritten, they must be underlined. If you are referring to a species who's genus is already known to the reader (either through prior knowledge, or you already stated the full genus earlier in the manuscript), then you can simply use a capital letter followed by a period, and the species name written in full. So, "Brachypelma smithi" becomes "B. smithi."

If you are referring to a single unknown species of a known genus, you note the species with "sp" followed by a period. So you would write it as "Brachypelma sp." This is actually different if you are referring to multiple unknown species within a single known genus. In the case of multiple species, you note the species as "spp" followed by a period. So, referring to multiple species of Brachypelma would look like "Brachypelma spp." Now, in the case of an unknown species, you should NEVER abbreviate the genus name. I see this all the time with Euathlus, where people write it as "E. sp." Never ever do that! That is nails-on-a-chalkboard bad in science, because it is simply too broad.

Finally, I'm sure most people realize that many tarantula species are named after people. B. smithi is a great example of that. It was obviously named after a man by the name of Smith. How do I know it was a man? Because it ends with an "i." Proper naming conventions for species names actually identifies the gender of the person being honored. Named after a male, it ends in "i." Named after a female person, it ends in "ae." Now, pronunciation of these names is where people get confused. Most people know that the latin pronunciation of "i" typically takes the "ee" sound, or it is soft as in the word "bit." However, a vowel that is the last letter of the word is actually pronounced with the hard sound. Therefore, the "i" at the end of "smithi" is pronounced as "eye," not "ee." In fact, the "ee" sound is actually how one would pronounce "ae," which indicates a female person. Below is a link that details all of these rules:

http://capewest.ca/pron.html

In light of this, you may notice that most species are named after men. In the old days, science was male-dominated. Fortunately, that has changed significantly. In science, we strive for gender equality. So hopefully, more female scientists will be honored, and we'll see more "ae" names for newly discovered species in the future!
 

AphonopelmaTX

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Nice summary. I will have to add to one statement made though. I'm not saying you're wrong, because it is true scientific names are always typed in italics. This is just additional information.

"Additionally, scientific names are also always typewritten in italics. If they are handwritten, they must be underlined."

Italics are the standard typeface for printed scientific names (binomial and trinomial) but it is not stated as a rule in the code of the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN). The code states scientific names need to be written in a typeface different from the rest of the text and does not specify one in particular. According to the ICZN code, it would be just as appropriate to use a bold typeface instead of italics. Although one would probably never see that in a research paper.

References
ICZN Code Online, Appendix B(6)
http://iczn.org/iczn/index.jsp

ICZN FAQ "Should all names be written in italics?"
http://iczn.org/faqs

I'm glad you pointed out the proper pronunciation of "ae". I can never get used to it no matter how hard I try. :)
The family for tarantulas, Theraphosidae, would be pronounced Theraphosi-dee and not Theraphosi-day. The subfamily Theraphosinae would be prounounced Theraphosi-knee and not Theraphosi-nay.
 

Anoplogaster

Arachnodemon
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Jan 15, 2017
Messages
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Nice summary. I will have to add to one statement made though. I'm not saying you're wrong, because it is true scientific names are always typed in italics. This is just additional information.

"Additionally, scientific names are also always typewritten in italics. If they are handwritten, they must be underlined."

Italics are the standard typeface for printed scientific names (binomial and trinomial) but it is not stated as a rule in the code of the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN). The code states scientific names need to be written in a typeface different from the rest of the text and does not specify one in particular. According to the ICZN code, it would be just as appropriate to use a bold typeface instead of italics. Although one would probably never see that in a research paper.

References
ICZN Code Online, Appendix B(6)
http://iczn.org/iczn/index.jsp

ICZN FAQ "Should all names be written in italics?"
http://iczn.org/faqs

I'm glad you pointed out the proper pronunciation of "ae". I can never get used to it no matter how hard I try. :)
The family for tarantulas, Theraphosidae, would be pronounced Theraphosi-dee and not Theraphosi-day. The subfamily Theraphosinae would be prounounced Theraphosi-knee and not Theraphosi-nay.
Oh! You are absolutely correct! So it seems most widely accepted to use italics, but it doesn't have to be. Makes me wonder if any journals would make you change it if you don't use italics. I'm willing to bet some reviewers don't actually know this rule. I certainly didn't.... haha!

Thanks for the catch!

And yes, I can't really get used to the "ae" pronunciation either. I still find myself pronouncing it as "ay." Hard to teach an old dog new tricks..... and I'm not even old:sour:
 

Andrea82

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If smithi is supposed to be pronounced smit-eye...than there are a lot of people (including myself) who are pronouncing it wrong.
Pretty much everyone in the hobby actually. I've never heard it pronounced like that.
 

Anoplogaster

Arachnodemon
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If smithi is supposed to be pronounced smit-eye...than there are a lot of people (including myself) who are pronouncing it wrong.
Pretty much everyone in the hobby actually. I've never heard it pronounced like that.
Weird, right? Seems like the word itself naturally rolls off the tongue as "smith-ee" rather than the awkward sounding "smith-eye." But according to these pronunciation rules, that's how the word should be pronounced. I catch myself pronouncing it like everyone else all the time, too. It's like Poecilotheria. Almost everyone pronounces that word as "Poke-ilotheria," except for a select few who argue that it should be pronounced "Pees-ilotheria."
 

Andrea82

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Weird, right? pronunciake the word itself naturally rolls off the tongue as "smith-ee" rather than the awkward sounding "smith-eye." But according to these pronunciation rules, that's how the word should be pronounced. I catch myself pronouncing it like everyone else all the time, too. It's like Poecilotheria. Almost everyone pronounces that word as "Poke-ilotheria," except for a select few who argue that it should be pronounced "Pees-ilotheria."
Yes, indeed. It also sounds weird to say smith-eye, because such a pronunciation usually is used to plural or multitudes of something, like Boli, funghi.
Does this go for say, G.iheringi as well? I've only heard this pronounced as ie-he-ring-ie.

Poecilotheria is another odd one. And it is not getting easier since the genus is often referred to as 'pokies', essentially making it more logical to call them Pokielotheria.

Oh well, I don't mind writing scientific names, but it is a pain in the behind to get my posts in italic and back since I'm mostly on my phone...:shifty:

These rules are the same everywhere right?
 

AphonopelmaTX

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Oh well, I don't mind writing scientific names, but it is a pain in the behind to get my posts in italic and back since I'm mostly on my phone...:shifty:

These rules are the same everywhere right?
Where these rules and guidelines are applicable are in writing zoological research papers that deal with nomenclature changes, but you will see it in other types of zoological research such as those dealing with the behavior or physiology of an organism. They don't really apply to means of informal communications such internet forums, e-mail, etc.

If one is going to use proper formatting of scientific names on these forums, why not go all the way and use the author and year after the species name? And don't forget to make sure the use of parentheses around the author and year is used correctly too while you're at it!
 

viper69

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If one is going to use proper formatting of scientific names on these forums, why not go all the way and use the author and year after the species name? And don't forget to make sure the use of parentheses around the author and year is used correctly too while you're at it!
This isn't even done exactly as you described in primary literature. There are a lot of rules not followed to the letter of the law which are accepted by the scientific body at large in a given field, including arachnology;)
 

Pmuticus704

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Ok I don't know why there are species that have been in the hobby for some time and have yet to be described scientifically... Come on man!! Lets get the taxonomy going and get these spiders described... It is somewhat frustrating..
 

Andrea82

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Where these rules and guidelines are applicable are in writing zoological research papers that deal with nomenclature changes, but you will see it in other types of zoological research such as those dealing with the behavior or physiology of an organism. They don't really apply to means of informal communications such internet forums, e-mail, etc.

If one is going to use proper formatting of scientific names on these forums, why not go all the way and use the author and year after the species name? And don't forget to make sure the use of parentheses around the author and year is used correctly too while you're at it!
Oh good, there is someone else who thinks it is a bit much....:shy:

My question was more if these terms were universal in terms of countries. US and the Netherlands use the same terms I think?
 

Anoplogaster

Arachnodemon
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If one is going to use proper formatting of scientific names on these forums, why not go all the way and use the author and year after the species name? And don't forget to make sure the use of parentheses around the author and year is used correctly too while you're at it!
You can if you want;)

This is why I put it in this particular forum.... the description of which states that it is for "scientific questions and discussions." And I mentioned that I'm writing this for those who are interested. People who don't care can simply disregard it:)
 

Anoplogaster

Arachnodemon
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Ok I don't know why there are species that have been in the hobby for some time and have yet to be described scientifically... Come on man!! Lets get the taxonomy going and get these spiders described... It is somewhat frustrating..
Well, if there is a species name for it, then there has to be a description somewhere in the literature. Anything that does not have a species name, and has been in the hobby for a while, is tricky to describe because of the possibility of hybridization. Also, natural history data is often lacking in these specimens.
 

Sana

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Ok I don't know why there are species that have been in the hobby for some time and have yet to be described scientifically... Come on man!! Lets get the taxonomy going and get these spiders described... It is somewhat frustrating..
Sadly there aren't nearly enough scientists primarily studying tarantulas or the funding to support the studies. To be fair there are a number of things in the world that understandably take precedence over tarantula taxonomy. Still sad though.
 
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