A quick guide to binomial nomenclature

You’ll notice I tend to include the scientific name for any species after its common name. It occurs to me not everyone is familiar with this, so I thought I’d quickly run through how it works.

There are plenty of good, detailed guides on the web, so this will be brief.

Every single species on Earth, plant or animal, has been classified using a system called ‘Binomial Nomenclature’. This is helpful, because common names vary across the world, can apply to multiple different species, so having a unique naming system means we can always be clear what we’re talking about.

The format is Genus species with the genus starting with a capital, the species in lower case, and usually the whole thing italicised.

To use a very familiar example, what about us? We are humans, but we are also Homo sapiens. Our genus is ‘Homo’. This is a bit like the surname (in my case Craven). It defines a small group of closely related species. Our species is ‘sapiens’, which is like the forename (in my case David). So Craven david, of you will.

This Sciurus carolinensis suspects he is being talked about…

Unfortunately, there are no other living species in our genus. But if we take another example, like squirrels, we have two species in the UK. The Grey Squirrel and the Red squirrel. Both are in the squirrel genus, Sciurus. This says they are both squirrels. The Grey is then the species carolinensis, and the red the species vulgaris.

Hopefully this is clear enough? I’ll talk more about scientific classification in the future, as it’s a fascinating subject, but I just wanted to make sure it’s clear for now.


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One Response to A quick guide to binomial nomenclature

  1. Lauren says:

    Great post by the way

I welcome thoughts, comments and questions, so please feel free to share anything at all. Thanks, David

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