How to use this Site

With the exception of the dinosaurs, few people know much about the taxonomic names of other animals.

For instance: what is a Ctenosaur or a Rachodactylid? Crotalus what?? Why all the scientific names?

Well scientific or taxonomic names of creatures, unlike common names, are universally accepted. For instance, in the USA the Komodo monitor is commonly referred to as the Komodo dragon, while in their native Indonesia, they are referred to as Oras. By using zoological nomenclature, we all end up speaking the same language. So the universal name for Komodo dragons, or Oras, would be Varanus komodoensis. The key here is Universality.

The Rules

There are also a few rules associated with these names. For instance, they always come in pairs (binomial). The first name is the genus and is always capitalized. The second name is the species and is always lowercase.


Crotalus horridus
[Genus] [species]

The genus can be used as one word (as it is often done) as long as one doesn't mind referring to all the species within said genus (more on Linnean Taxonomy soon). The species is specific to one type of creature and it is always written with the genus. One cannot write it alone (this is partly do to the use of the same species name in different genera), so Crotalus horridus would never be called: horridus. No one would know what the person meant. Is it Crotalus horridus or Triceratops horridus? Perhaps Moloch horridus (horridus is rather popular among reptilian names; sadly)?

In order to make the task of writing all these names easier, another common practice is to omit the genus full name and replace it with a capital letter. This can be done if and only if the full genus name has been mentioned once before in the article. This way one knows what genus the species belongs in.

Finally there is the matter of format. For genera and species, both names are always italicized if possible. If italicization cannot be done then they get underlined and if underlining cannot be done, they get underscored or sometimes given and asterisk (though the last one is rarely used and not very official).

So to recap:
Crotalus horridus - C.horridus
Crotalus horridus - C.horridus
_Crotalus horridus_ - _C.horridus_
*Crotalus horridus* - *C.horridus*

Is it real hard to find what I want

I know that seeing some of these large names must be a bit intimidating at first, but it's actually quite easy. The more you know about the linking words in zoological names the better you'll get at finding what you want.

For instance if you see CROCODYLIA then you would assume that it is the section on crocodiles and alligators. You would be right. Another common name for snakes, is serpents, so when one notices a section of the site labeled: SERPENTES one would (correctly) assume that this is the section leading to snakes.

Of course there are a few stumpers. For instance you'd have to take a guess as to what a MOSASAUR is or a CHELONIAN. And worse yet, trying to figure out what the heck kind of animal is under the RHYNCHOCEPHALIA.

So to make life a tad easier, I will post up the harder to decipher names right here:

Zoological name Definition Common name
Chelonia Greek Chelone = Tortoise Turtles and Tortoises
Lacertilia Latin Lacerta = Lizard The Lizards or saurians
Amphisbaenia Greek Amphis = on both sides + bainein = to walk The worm lizards, who were named after a mythological serpent that had a head on both ends and could move in either direction.
Rhyncocephalia Greek, rhynchos = beak, snout + kephale = head The tuatara and other "beak headed" reptiles

Stay tuned as I intend to add an interesting addition to help with these definitions, in the future.

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