Zoology

A Guide to Understanding Animals Scientific Names



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In the 1700's Carolus Linnaeus developed a system of classification for animals. Around this time, the science of zoology was expanding rapidly and to successfully keep track of the animals and their various groups, a system was needed. Latin was the language used in scientific circles at this time, and Linnaeus devised the system of two Latin names; the first to describe the genus, or group, the animal belongs to and the second describes the species.

Some animals have three scientific names. The third name indicates a sub species of the same animal and will describe either the place it is found or something else it has in common with other sub species.

As an example, the Peregrine Falcon belongs to the order of Falconiformes (Order Falconiformes). It's scientific name is Falco peregrinus. It is a widespread and well known falcon. The name indicates it belongs to the falcon group and the species name speaks for itself (peregrinus). Another falcon, known over the world as different names, is the Nankeen Kestrel or American Kestrel. It's scientific name is Falco cenchroides. From the scientific name, it's easy to see it's a falcon and it's species name would identify it as the same bird worldwide, despite the different common name.

Scientific names are important as they provide more detailed information about an animal. This type of information can be important to a scientist or zoologist studying it. The common names for animals do not tell where the animal is found or what particular genus it belongs to. Common names for each animal may also very from place to place, adding to the confusion.

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