Let’s start by discussing something that we are all familiar with, common names. A common name is a name given to an organism that can vary according to place, language and culture. Common names are not unique names and can often be misleading. Common names are unreliable and often lead to miscommunications.
- Example 1: Eucalyptus grandis has two common names; Flooded Gum and Rose Gum. It naturally occurs in the Eastern states, from near Newcastle in New South Wales to around Bundaberg in Queensland.
- Example 2: Eucalyptus grandis shares the common name Flooded Gum with another species; Eucalyptus rudis, which is native to the southwest of Western Australia, occurring along water courses and in wetter areas.
- Example 3: Worldwide there are roughly 37 species commonly referred to as a fox and of these, only 12 are true foxes
This is where scientific names come in. A scientific name is an internationally recognised unique binomial (two part) name (usually Latin) given to a specific organism. Scientific names are important because the allow people all over the world to effectively communicate about organisms. These names are based on an international set of rules and are designed to provide information on the organisms relationship to other organisms as well as providing something descriptive about the organism. The first part of the scientific name is always the genus that the species belongs to and the second part of the name is descriptive and is the species name.
- Example 4: Swift Fox – Vulpes velox. Vulpes is the genus of foxes and velox means quick, rapid, swift or fast. So Vulpes velox was likely given this name because it is a fast fox.
- Example 5: Bottle Nosed Dolphin – Tursiops truncatus. Tursiops is the genus of dolphins and truncatus means shortened or cut off, in reference to its shortened snout.
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