Scientific Nomenclature

Azhael

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I used to feel the same way Joost. It came to me as quite a shock when they changed the genus Triturus (that is until i understood it and realized how obvious and necessary the change was). The same for many european herps, which in recent years have had their taxonomy revised, such as Hemorrhois hippocrepis, Zamenis longissima, Timon lepidus...it took me literally years to forget about the old names. And thank the gods i managed to, cause my grades will depend on me remembering the correct names next tuesday hehe.

The thing is, scientific nomenclature does take getting used to, but once you do, it´s second nature.
 

aramcheck

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Aaargh, I just learnt to call the Southern Wip Snake Hierophis [FONT="]viridiflavus[/FONT][/I][/I][I][FONT="] [/FONT][FONT="]and you tell me I need to give up on [/FONT][I][FONT="]Elaphe[/FONT][FONT="]as well? I noticed about the Occellated Lizards on some other forum, but I guess the [/FONT]Lacerta genus was as much in need of reclassification as Triturus.

Now I need to take a look at what is happening with the Bufo genus as well, before my “Bufo” veridis starts having identity issues :D.
 

Azhael

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Ufff....Bufo, another of the tricky ones. Right now yours would be called Pseudepidalea viridis xDDD
It´s very true that Lacerta was a horrible mess, but european lizards are doing my head in...

In all fairness, despite the occasional changes (and the occasional massive change), scientific nomenclature is fairly stable. One of the advantages of a forum such as this is that among our ranks there are scientists and very well informed enthusiasts, which means that, sooner or later, taxonomic changes concerning caudates will be notified here, for everyone to know.
 

Nathan

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Excellent write-up, Azhael. I would add that "cf." is an abbreviation for Latin confer, the imperative form of the verb meaning "compare". So, for example, Ambystoma cf. tigrinum means: "an Ambystoma, compare to A. tigrinum". It is used for species which are known to be distinct but are not yet described.

Some generic names and their meanings (Gr.=Greek, L.=Latin):

Ambystoma- a tricky one; though by some to be a misspelling of Gr. amblus stoma, meaning "blunt mouth", but also suggested to be an elision of ana buein stoma, meaning "to stuff into the mouth"

Amphiuma- elision of Gr. amphi pneuma: "breathe on both sides"

Aneides- from Gr. aneidos: "shapeless"

Bolitoglossa- from Gr. bolitos glosse: "mushroom tongue"

Cryptobranchus- from Gr. kryptos branchion: "hidden gill"

Cynops- from Gr. kuon opsis: "dog face"

Desmognathus- from Gr. desmos gnathos: "bundle jaw"

Echinotriton- from Gr. echinos triton: "spiny triton" (Triton was a classical sea deity; European newts were originally placed in the genus Triton and that element is common in the names of various salamanders)

Ensatina- from L. ensatus: "sword-shaped"

Eurycea- made up by Rafinesque; he said it was a "mythological" name

Gyrinophilus- from Gr. gyrinos philos: "spring loving"

Ichthyosaura- from Gr. ichthus sauros: "fish lizard"

Mesotriton- from Gr. mesos triton: "middle triton"

Necturus- from Gr. nektos ouros: "swimming tail"

Neurergus- from Gr. neuron ergon: "sinew/nerve/string work"

Notophthalmus- from Gr. notos ophthalmos: "back eye"

Pachytriton- from Gr. pachus triton: "thick triton"

Plethodon- from Gr. plethore odon: "plenty of teeth"

Proteus- from Gr. proteus: mythical sea deity

Salamandra- from L. salamandra: mythical fire-loving creature

Siren- from Gr. siren: mythical sea creature

Taricha- from Gr. tarichos: "mummy"

Tylototriton- from Gr. tylotos triton: "knobbed triton"
 

himynameiszck

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Thanks for this. I thought I understood the concept pretty well after taking high school biology last year, but they didn't even teach us what "sp." and the like is. This was very helpful!
 

Ben Krysa

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Wow! Scientific names are really fun. I definately have seen common names cause more problems and confusion than latin names. There is a certain challenge with learning these names, particularily for those of us who may lack formal scientific education, but the advantages of becoming familiar with this system are truly worth the time. From the beggining hobbyist to the expierienced herpetoculturist, the use of proper names is truly the only way to ensure you are caring for your species correctly.

I still have a great many things to learn, but thanks to this site and helpful individuals such as Azhael, I feel my caudates have a better chance of health and happiness.

Just for the record; forgive any mistakes I may make , spelling or otherwise, related to scientific names. As I said, I am still learning, and loving every minuite of it.
 

Chopper Greg

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If you do not mind a late entry in to this discusion ....

I think most of us who prefer to use common names, do so not because we don't understand the need for scientific names, but because we have no idea how to pronounce them - we take one look at all of those consonants and vowels, and go run and hide because we might sprain our tongue and never be able to speak properly again :eek:.

So how about a guide on how to pronounce those names?
 

Azhael

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That´s a tricky one because for example there is a huge difference between how english speakers and spanish speakers pronounce them. I find it quite hard to understand most names said by an american or a british person.
Germans tend to have their own way too.
Not to place any blame, but it´s very common for english speaker to hugely anglicize scientific names, instead of using a more latin pronunciation, which is obviously VERY understandable. In addition, latin has some sounds that simply don´t exist in other languages.
There are also differences among individuals....sometimes quite pronounced.
I think we would have a very hard time trying to make a pronunciation guide.
 

Chopper Greg

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So what if a English speaker is going to sound different than a German speaker? At least they will be able to communicate in print about the same animal ( in theory :rolleyes: ).

Don't get me wrong - I agree with the issues that you stated, but even "a sounds like" guide will start removing the " strangeness " of scientific nomenclature - making it more familiar, and in turn, makes people more comfortable in using it.

Me? I have some amateur background in the etymology of English words - being able to recognize the root of a number of English words in some of the more common of European languages - but that doesn't come close to helping with scientific nomenclature, and knowing my problem with it, I feel pity for those that are getting started with it cold turkey.

In some ways it feels like the scientific community is wanting us to be able to communicate, by asking us to use the scientific name instead of the common name ( I have no problem with that in it's self ), but then very few of them actually go and try and help us to pronounce these names that they want us to use - they more than likely they give us what looks like an almost random jumble of letters and expect us to make sense of it.

Is this a Catch-22 situation or what?
 

Mac Myers

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I typically only need the Scientific Names when communicating via the written word because I rarely if ever go anywhere that puts me in contact with people who are interested in talking about much more than themselves.
 

Azhael

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You don´t need to know the pronunciation to use scientific names in print.
Mac i feel your pain. I can´t remember the last time i was able to have a conversation where using scientific names didn´t mean boring the hell out of people or being looked at as if i were speakiing about quantum mechanics in sanskrit.
Chopper, if you wish to make a guide about pronunciation, be my guest, i certainly can´t do it, i wouldn´t know where to start to translate the way i pronounce them into english phonetics O_O The mere thought makes me shudder...
 

Chopper Greg

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Chopper, if you wish to make a guide about pronunciation, be my guest, i certainly can´t do it, i wouldn´t know where to start to translate the way i pronounce them into english phonetics O_O The mere thought makes me shudder...

If I knew how to pronounce more than a few of them, I just might, but here is the few I think I have figured out. ( You guys backstop me if you can )

  • Rana, is about as easy as it gets with " ran·a "
  • Dendrobates, ( near as I can figure ) would probably come out as " den·drō··tēs "
  • Caudata - I'm not even totally sure about that one perhaps " caw·dāt·aw " or " caw·daw·taw "
  • Hyla, probably another relatively easy one with " hi·la "
  • Triturus, probably not to bad with " tri·tur·us "
  • Ambystoma, perhaps " am·by·stoma " or " am·be·stoma "
  • Trochus, might be " trō·sh·us "
  • Pseudostomatella, " ··stō·ma·tella "
  • Notophthalmus, to me appears to be " no·tof·thal·mu·s "
That's about it for what I have puzzled out.
 
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Azhael

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The "y" is pronounced as "ee" (i suposse that would be the sound) so "Hyla" would be "eela" (the "h" is mute) and "Ambystoma" would be "am-bee-stoma".
Also, the "e" in "Pseudo" is pronounced and i suposse it would be something like the "e" in "egg".
"Trochus" would be like "tro-kus".
"Caudata" would be "caw-dah-tah" i suposse.
I don´t know i really have no clue about english phonetics xDD
 

SludgeMunkey

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The "y" is pronounced as "ee" (i suposse that would be the sound) so "Hyla" would be "eela" (the "h" is mute) and "Ambystoma" would be "am-bee-stoma".
Also, the "e" in "Pseudo" is pronounced and i suposse it would be something like the "e" in "egg".
"Trochus" would be like "tro-kus".
"Caudata" would be "caw-dah-tah" i suposse.
I don´t know i really have no clue about english phonetics xDD
I'll help you out with a few as English gets lazy with the Latin roots...;)

"Hyla" is phonetically "High Luh"

"Ambystoma" is "Am biss toe mah" or "Am bih stow mah" (I prefer the former to the latter...blame far too many Latin Masses)

"Pseudo" is "Soo Doe"
 

SludgeMunkey

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If I knew how to pronounce more than a few of them, I just might, but here is the few I think I have figured out. ( You guys backstop me if you can )

  • Rana, is about as easy as it gets with " ran·a " Ran-uh or Rain-uh is acceptable
  • Dendrobates, ( near as I can figure ) would probably come out as " den·drō··tēs " Den dro bat tez
  • Caudata - I'm not even totally sure about that one perhaps " caw·dāt·aw " or " caw·daw·taw " Correct- Caw Dat UH
  • Hyla, probably another relatively easy one with " hi·la "
  • Triturus, probably not to bad with " tri·tur·us "
  • Ambystoma, perhaps " am·by·stoma " or " am·be·stoma "
  • Trochus, might be " trō·sh·us "
  • Pseudostomatella, " ··stō·ma·tella "
  • Notophthalmus, to me appears to be " no·tof·thal·mu·s " This is a tricky one. In truth the "th" is pronounced "T" however "th" is generally accepted (yup, just like in Neanderthal "Nee and er Tall") yet when you throw a "ph" before it it gets messy and nearly impossible to pronounce aloud when you are missing as many teeth as I am.:p The "phth" sounds like "fluh" on its own and you have the "al" in there so you get "Know TAWflawl muss"
That's about it for what I have puzzled out.
And there is my two cents worth...
 

Azhael

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Seriously...the "h" in "Hyla" is mute, it doesn´t exist as far as pronunciation goes. And the "y" is not "i" (well, for us it is, but not for you) as in "high", it´s "i" as in "it" or "ee".

You anglicize latin words waaaaaay too much, guys xD I understand it´s hard to change from a germanic language to a latin one, but i think the "latin" (or as close as we can manage) pronunciation should be respected, after all, the words are latin. I believe a word should be pronounced following the rules of the language it belongs to...although admittedly, it´s not easy.
 
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Chopper Greg

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Seriously...the "h" in "Hyla" is mute, it doesn´t exist as far as pronunciation goes. And the "y" is not "i" (well, for us it is, but not for you) as in "high", it´s "i" as in "it" or "ee".

You anglicize latin words waaaaaay too much, guys xD I understand it´s hard to change from a germanic language to a latin one, but i think the "latin" (or as close as we can manage) pronunciation should be respected, after all, the words are latin. I believe a word should be pronounced following the rules of the language it belongs to...although admittedly, it´s not easy.

The problem is that not all the root words used in scientific nomenclature are Latin, so do you then use the rules for the language for which each individual root word actually belongs?

This really sound like something that the editors of Merriam-Webster recently reviewed - in that if a word becomes a part of the English language, then the English rules are followed in pronunciation ( and the same should go other languages ). Merriam-Webster Online

My line of thought then says that if scientific nomenclature is used by an English speaker then the English rules on pronouncing it apply - as it then applies the same rule to all the root words used by scientific nomenclature, regardless of their root language - IOW a single pronunciation standard is applied by all the speakers of a given language, that is then not contrary to the normal rules of that language.


If such a local ( national? ) standard is used, then I suspect that scientific nomenclature will become less threating to the general population, and in return because it becomes easier to use, it is used more often.
 

Azhael

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It´s true not all the roots used in scientific nomenclature are latin, in fact a large amount is greek. However, those roots are latinicized, because scientific nomenclature is officially latin, therefore should be pronounced with latin standards and not greek.

I understand it´s a lot easier to pronounce scientific names as one would say the word in his own language, but i think it nullifies the basic purpose of scientific nomenclature which is to be exactly the same for absolutely everyone, with no possible mistake. As i said i generally find it really hard to understand an english speaker using scientific names, and i take for granted that any english speaker would have a hard time understanding me....which is a bummer.
 

Chopper Greg

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I understand it´s a lot easier to pronounce scientific names as one would say the word in his own language, but i think it nullifies the basic purpose of scientific nomenclature which is to be exactly the same for absolutely everyone, with no possible mistake.
As i said i generally find it really hard to understand an english speaker using scientific names, and i take for granted that any english speaker would have a hard time understanding me....which is a bummer.

And there in is the problem with trying to get people to use scientific nomenclature and despite it's intent it is not actually working when people of different native languages are talking to each other - as opposed to communicating in text.

I submit, that scientific nomenclature using Latin worked well when Latin was about the only universal language and writing was about the only way people from different countries could communicate with each other ( as actually travel was all but imposable except for a select few ), but, the use of Latin now for scientific nomenclature forces people back to using a somewhat out of date form of communication ( text ) to make sure that they are understood as Latin is unable to deal with the way people actual pronounce words and is no longer the universal language it once was.


I then pose the questions:

Should Latin be replaced as the language of scientific nomenclature?

Is there another language that would be better suited for use?

Why or why not?
 
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blueberlin

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Ok I'll wager an opinion. Latin seems fair to me exactly because it's a language nobody uses anymore. Equally difficult for everyone, I suppose. .

-Eva
 
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