How to Write Latin
Names of Species
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Binomial Nomenclature | Rules for Latin names
| Using common names |
The Latin names for individual species
are written using a system termed "binomial nomenclature"
that was developed originally by Linnaeus. Quite literally, each
species is identified by a combination of "two names":
its genus name and its specific epithet. A familiar
example is that of human beings, Homo sapiens.
Usually the Latin name is followed by the last name of the person
who first gave the name to the species in non-italicized text.
Rules for Writing Latin Names in Papers
Here are some simple rules to follow when
writing Latin names in your paper:
- The full name (e.g., Homo sapiens)
should be written out in the Title, the first time it is used
in the Abstract, and the first time it is used in the body of
the paper. Thereafter the name should be abbreviated as the first
letter of the genus name (capitalized) and the complete specific
epithet (e.g., H.
- The genus name is ALWAYS capitalized
- The specific epithet is NEVER capitalized
- The entire name is always italicized
in print (Homo
sapiens); if italics are not possible,
the alternative is to underline both names.
- If the name of the person who named the
species is available, use it.
(Homo sapiens Linnaeus; Rana catesbeiana
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of common names for species
Most species that we encounter
routinely are also given a common name which is usually somewhat
less cumbersome than the Latin name. If you need to mention the
species name many times in your paper you may find it better
to use the common name. A problem with common names is that a
species which has a wide geographic range may be called by different
common names depending on where you are. Further, some species
may have different common names depending on their particular
stage of life or size.
- You may use the common
name in a paper so long as the Latin name is given with it initially
(e.g., in Title, Abstract, and first mention in Introduction)
and you clarify which common name you are using for that species.
- When in doubt, use the Latin name.
Department of Biology, Bates
College, Lewiston, ME 04240