Scientific Nomenclature

Nathan

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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.
You run into a whole new problem here: which Latin pronunciation do you use? Ecclesiastical Latin is different from Medeival Latin is different from Classical Latin. There were also dialects; an ancient Roman from Naples would probably have pronounced the "H" in Hyla, one from Padua would probably have not, and one from Rome itself may or may not have depending on his level of education (a well-educated Roman would be familiar enough with Greek to recognize Hyla as a Greek-derived word and pronounce it according to the koine standard, which did pronounce initial rough breathings, rendered in Latin as "H"). So...yeah. There's no simple solution.

I have found that somewhat normalized pronunciations arise within each group of individuals who typically talk to one another. American herpetologists have a different set of pronunciations from American herp hobbyists. I haven't been around zookeepers or professional herpetoculturalists much, they may have different sets as well. I would guess the same is true in other countries. So just listen to others in your group and try to use the same pronunciations they use. After all, communication is the goal, not correctness.
 

Chopper Greg

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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
I would say that is the perfect argument against it.

It's not flexible, it's difficult for everyone, it's pronunciation varies with the local dialect to the point where it's not universally understood ( even though that is why it is supposedly used for scientific nomenclature ) and except for the Pope and his cohorts it's mostly a dead language.

At least metric can be understood by most people in the world - and if not understood can be easily converted into something that is understood.
 

robinsonmatt43

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Great post. Scientifific nomenclature, although sometimes annoying and tedious, is a much more reliable way to commicate information regarding any organisms. Amphibians are no exception.

Matt
 

asfouts

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I know this is super late. But I thought I would put in my two cents. I have had this thread in mind for a while and now that I have taken a (classical) latin class everything is so much easier. Scientific nomenclature follows the pronunciation in LATIN. No rules of english, german, spanish, etc. apply. And it also follows that since greek pronunciation is so close to latin, the same rules will apply in spoken greek and latin nomenclature. Latin is a dead language therefore words will not change nor will the phonetics. Which is why, to my knowledge, it is used as the universal scientific language. I will clear a few things up right now. I should point out real quick that my latin professor speaks 5 languages and never once did he mix any in. German, portuguese, spanish, english, and latin. He is a native brazilian.

I should also state that classical latin is the most preferred usage of the language and is the one used in scientific nomenclature.


Alright lets get started

"H" is pronounced and is not silent
"Ae" is pronounced "I"
"LL" is pronounced as it is in english
"Ch" is pronounced a hard "K" sound
"V" is pronounced as an english "W"
"Th" is pronounced "tuh"
"-us" is pronounced "oos"
"Au" is pronounced "ow"
"I" is pronounced "ee"

An exception to the rule is if the latin word is used in the language that is spoken in which case the dominant language is used...
For example: "placenta" in latin is (pla-ken-ta) and means cake while in english the word is pronounced (pla-sen-ta).

Here are some latin words to help digest pronunciation.
Dinosaurus (dee-no-sow-roos) dinosaur
Silva (sil-wa) forest or woods
Elephantus (ell-ē-fon-toos) elephant
Crocodilus (cro-co-dee-loos) crocodile
Aedificium (I-dee-fee-cee-oom) building

Also when I talk to people I generally use common name. Its easier because people tend to learn common names quicker then they do scientific ones.
 

methodik

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Could you elaborate how pronounciation differs from german? Except for the ae, which in germany often is pronounced as an a (ä), and maybe the ch, which except for bavaria will most likely be spoken not as k - I found that german pronounciation pretty much matches the latin. In fact, more often it occurs that people switch to what they think is latin pronounciation (the C as a sharp Tz, not as a K).

This would be interesting, as you seem to have fresh knowledge and I can imagine my teachers in school taught me wrong, due to their own german-ness.
 

asfouts

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I should elaborate on what I meant. I mean that you should pronounce latin words in latin and no other language. If it so happens that german corresponds with latin it makes comprehension that much easier. I said that because as Azhael said english speakers tend to over anglicize words of another language. Which I find hilarious. I took three years of spanish in high school and the third year there were still kids saying "hola" with a heavy "H" sound.
 

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Agree at 100%. Scientific nomenclature have been much avoided from what I saw. Personally I almost never referred to newts or other living being by their common names using always scientific nomenclature that is much easier and objective to use. After learning you´ll never forget:happy:

Agreed...this was pounded into my head several years ago in college biology class and it's still in there...lol
 

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I would not consider formal Latin pronunciation to be any kind of standard in this case, because a very large chunk of animal names are not Latin in origin and were never intended to be pronounced in Latin. It's an okay starting point, but that's all it is, particularly since I don't believe the Code contains any rules about pronunciation.
 

asfouts

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I would not consider formal Latin pronunciation to be any kind of standard in this case, because a very large chunk of animal names are not Latin in origin and were never intended to be pronounced in Latin. It's an okay starting point, but that's all it is, particularly since I don't believe the Code contains any rules about pronunciation.
To my understanding there is no formal code on how to speak in scientific nomenclature. I hear and even read many different pronunciations of certain words, but they are false pronunciations if they do not follow the informal code of languages. One does not pronounce Spanish words in English or English words in French. We use the pronunciation required by the language, which is why Latin should be pronounced according to Latin and Greek should be pronounced according to Greek.
 

FrogEyes

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To my understanding there is no formal code on how to speak in scientific nomenclature. I hear and even read many different pronunciations of certain words, but they are false pronunciations if they do not follow the informal code of languages. One does not pronounce Spanish words in English or English words in French. We use the pronunciation required by the language, which is why Latin should be pronounced according to Latin and Greek should be pronounced according to Greek.
I agree, but scientific names of animals are largely non-Latin, and most people won't know what the etymology of the various words is, Latin or otherwise. That leaves us not even at "square one", because in order to pronounce words correctly, people would have to learn the etymology as well, and not just of Latin.

It's worth noting that many words in English are not of English origin, and are no longer pronounced [or spelled] even close to their original forms. For that matter, people can't even spell or pronounce ENGLISH words correctly. It might help if everyone spoke at least one language other than English, Spanish being especially useful. Learning the rules of another language can give better insight into many things, including your own language. English, for instance, follows some of the same rules as Spanish, but no-one is taught or even aware of these rules. I am thinking in particular of the rules governing "C", "G", and hard and soft vowels. "G" is pronounced "J" before "E" or "I", and "G" before "A", "O", or "U". For "C", it's "S" and "K" respectively. This rule is taught in Spanish, not in English, but consulting any dictionary will reveal that the rule is nonetheless there. I think this is likely why some languages have dropped the letter C entirely, and replaced it with S or K. When schools no longer teach or grade for spelling, it's no wonder that "Mojave" is often spoken as "mo-jayv". I too find myself cringing, far too often.

I think that anyone who learns enough names, will gradually come to an understanding of the various languages of origin and the more-or-less correct pronunciations, especially if they are also multilingual.

To my understanding there is no formal code on how to speak in scientific nomenclature.
To clarify, I am refering to the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature, formally refered to as "the Code" for short. This is the only set of rules for Linnaean zoological names [ie, apart from Phylocode, which is something quite different], and it applies Latin grammatical rules but no rules on pronunciation nor any other Latin requirements.
 
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Tadpole

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One question: how would you pronounce viridescens ? Thanks!
 

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One thing I have learned in life is know your audience. When talking to hobbyist I tend to use scientific nomenclature. If I am showing my tanks to someone outside the hobby I use common names. If I am talking to both...I use both!
 

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While i understand where you are coming from and i sometimes do the same, i think it´s kind of sad xD and i try to avoid it if possible. I tend to look at simplifying things for non-hobbyists as a disservice to them, in a way, because it´s not like scientific nomenclature is so difficult that only academics could possibly understand it (which is clearly not the case as this forum proofs :p), so why "dumb it down"?
Also, people shoudn´t be afraid of learning something new. It may be taking it too far, i don´t know, but in some cases i think it´s yet another example of the general laziness and anti-intelectualism that pervades our culture. I fully admit that in other cases it´s simply a matter of practicality, but then i´d rather use both so that people can make the connection. Scientific nomenclature is not just useful, it´s beautiful! Everybody should have a chance to appreciate it :D
 

apileofclothes

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When I studied Evolution in college, I remember "species" being defined as a group of living organisms consisting of similar individuals capable of exchanging genes or interbreeding. In real life however, there are many so-called distinct "species" that are are not actually species. Many in the Ambystoma genus can easily interbreed and produce fertile offspring. This includes A. tigrinum, A. mexicanum, and A. andersoni for example. I don't see why we don't call Axolotls a subspecies, race, or population of tiger salamanders.
Just a thought.
 

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Well, that has little to do with this thread, as the subject is nomenclature, not classification. I will however state simply that your understanding of what a species is, is flawed. You're not alone in your misunderstanding, not by far. Without straying too far from topic I will only address two main points: first, current species concepts tend to apply fairly universally to all previous species concepts, a fact which tends to validate the genetic/cladistics approach. Second, the idea that animals able to interbreed must be the same species is incorrect, and a case of badly flawed logic. The converse of "must be separate species because they cannot interbreed" is not "must be the same species because they can interbreed". The alternative to the first [specific] statement is instead any statement which is less specific. That basically means 'may or may not be separate species based on other criteria'.

Ambystoma mexicanum maintains a separate gene pool, morphology, distribution, and ecology from a number of other named tiger salamanders, indicating it is a separate species with its own history and biology. Separate from subsalsum, taylori, tigrinum, californiense, mavortium, dumerilii, andersoni, lermaense, silvense, ordinarium, and a bunch of others. While some of these show evidence of hybridization or undescribed species, each is distinctive in various ways and has a separate and essentially unique gene pool coupled to its other unique traits.

Zoological names, whether for species or higher taxa, are essentially scientific theories summarized in one or two words. Theories about how they are ancestrally related and whether they currently share a reproductive group/gene pool.
 

apileofclothes

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Axolotls in circulation today are a blend of many ancestral lines, so the nomenclature or calling them "Ambystoma mexicanum" cannot be correct. This blend has been verified both by the historical accounts of the scientists who interbred them to yield what we have today, and by contemporary genetic studies relating to their mechanism of neotany.
Of course if we are talking about the pure lines of neotenic specimens in lake Xochimilco, these are are simply a derivative of the Ambystoma mexicanum terrestrial salamanders native to that part of mexico. Similarly, there are genetically based neotenic variants of A. tigrinum, and A. mavortium found in certain locations in the U.S., but those are not elevated to a species level. Their neotany is just a natural phenomena that can either persist, or cease once they start breeding again with the surrounding terrestrial population. These neotenic unexpressed genes would then simply meld back into the population until they are called for again. That is a neat thing about salamander ecological genetics.
I understand your logical point about, but it doesn't really address a flaw in how we define species, and thus their nomenclature. It just means that there are currently more splitters in the biological community than lumpers.
 

FrogEyes

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To the best of my knowledge, there are no known terrestrial populations of A.mexicanum; and where two or more species of the complex come into contact, they differ in morphology, ecology, and genetics, and for the most part do not interbreed. A.tigrinum and A.californiense in particular have not shared a gene pool with other members of the complex in millions of years.

Neoteny in these species may be obligate in some, nearly obligate in others, and facultative or absent in yet others. Neoteny in itself is not the reason for recognizing these species, although it is a factor for some. There are multiple lines of evidence

To assume In any case though, whether they might merge in future is purely hypothetical, and we must deal with the evidence of here and now. To do otherwise might require us to begin naming siblings to separate genera because their hypothetical descendants are so assigned. It's also a false assumption that a surrounding terrestrial population exists. Since the non-neotenic animals reproduce in the same places and ways that the neotenic ones do, if there ARE such surrounding populations, they either do not interbreed for some reason and are thus separate gene pools and separate species; or they DO interbreed already, in which case there's no point in even discussing them, since they are already a single interbreeding population. The essence of ALL species concepts is that a species shares traits by virtue of a shared reproductive pool. If the unique set of traits of one population is not found more or less throughout another population, despite some degree of interbreeding at their contact zones, then they are not sharing a gene pool, reproductive pool, or ancestry, and are not the same species. This is true of all currently named Ambystoma I know of, and in fact also true of several populations currently assigned to A.macrodactylum, A.mavortium, A.californiense, and perhaps A.tigrinum, A.maculatum, and a couple of others as well [the latter few requiring much more data in comparison to the first].

I do not see what flaw you refer to in current species definitions, but I definitely see flaws in past definitions: whereas definitions used in past were often in disagreement and used entirely different measures, current methodologies have a very strong tendency to identify as species, organisms which could retrospectively also be defined as species by MULTIPLE past methods. They all share in common the fact that the traits we observe and measure are mostly a product of speciation, not a cause; and they are a product of common reproductive pools. Logically then, if we can identify a common reproductive pool more directly [ie, via genetic measures], then other indirect measures can be considered helpful but unnecessary. The result is, especially among salamanders, that we can have separate species which appear by any other measure to be identical. In reality, we can often detect additional 'invisible' traits, such as ecological niche, pheromones, diet, etc, if we look carefully enough. It doesn't matter really whether you're comparing Ambystoma lermaense to A.taylori; or A.laterale to Hynobius tokyoensis: in both cases they simply do not interbreed, do not share recent ancestry, and despite outward similarities, should not be considered conspecific.

I know that concepts and understandings were different 30 years ago when I first started studying these subjects [although some of the techniques now in common use were in fact being applied 50 or more years ago], but since then I have continued to follow the research on an essentially daily basis, on a wide variety of taxa. This has given me a good view on how and why changes have taken place, and also allowed me to see some flaws and even very common errors made by those who know the subjects best. Generally, the conflicts arise because the methodologies and logic involved are not fully understood, and because people get very stuck in their viewpoints, regardless of the evidence. I'm not a big fan of indistinguishable species, but I do recognize their reality.
 

XxJack JeckelxX

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Personally, i think the problem is not that people avoid scientific nomenclature, but that a lot of people use it incorrectly. This forum is full of very imaginative spellings of scientific names, some are easy mistakes in spelling, others are completely different words, hehe. People tend to capitalize both parts of the binomial too.
Hopefully this note will serve as a learning guide for those who are not familiar with the correct use of this system. After all, it´s not a big deal, even if very badly spelled, we tend to understand each other in this forum, but well, the same way that people come here to learn about husbandry and care, they might as well get a quick lesson on scientific nomenclature.
thank you for these quick tips it clears lot of confusion up for me. Really just helps when you just need to be more clear and direct and generalizations dont cut it
 

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Spelling is definitely important. My favorite examples are:
Kassina maculata [formerly Hylambates maculatus]
Kassina maculosa
Kassina maculifer
Kassina cochranae [formerly Kassina maculata]

Each is a separate species, and there can be some strong similarities in appearance. Animals in the pet trade are frequently misidentified, not because of a failure to identify, so much as failure to use the spelling which is correct.
 

sde

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One thing I have learned in life is know your audience. When talking to hobbyist I tend to use scientific nomenclature. If I am showing my tanks to someone outside the hobby I use common names. If I am talking to both...I use both!
I do the same thing, it all depends on the audience.

While i understand where you are coming from and i sometimes do the same, i think it´s kind of sad xD and i try to avoid it if possible. I tend to look at simplifying things for non-hobbyists as a disservice to them, in a way, because it´s not like scientific nomenclature is so difficult that only academics could possibly understand it (which is clearly not the case as this forum proofs :p), so why "dumb it down"?
Also, people shoudn´t be afraid of learning something new. It may be taking it too far, i don´t know, but in some cases i think it´s yet another example of the general laziness and anti-intelectualism that pervades our culture. I fully admit that in other cases it´s simply a matter of practicality, but then i´d rather use both so that people can make the connection. Scientific nomenclature is not just useful, it´s beautiful! Everybody should have a chance to appreciate it :D
The reason I don't use scientific nomenclature with non hobbyists is because if I do they just don't understand. When I say the name, they think I am just speaking rubbish, or say "what is that?". When I then tell them it is the scientific name they just say something like "what's it's normal name?" etc..
In my opinion most people who don't have an animal related hobby simply don't know much of anything about scientific names, and don't understand why we need them. So when you say them they just don't understand what you are saying....at all. Even my siblings who hear me say scientific names all the time just don't understand, and will get Taricha confused with Dicamptodon! :eek:
Also, I think a lot of people just don't want to learn, it seems too confusing or difficult at first, even though it's not. And some people even take it like bragging when I say a species scientific name. So what I often do now is say the scientific name, and then right after that I say the common name. It seems to minimize confusion.

Common names, however, are not reliable. They tend to be quite general, and the animal they refer to may change greatly depending on location. Therefore it´s complicated to establish which kind of animal exactly one is talking about.
My favorite example is that I have heard Taricha granulosa referred to as "Roughskin newt", "Northern roughskin newt", "Oregon newt", "Colorado newt" ( they don't even live in Colorado!!! ) and "Orange bellied newt". Oh man *facepalm*.
 
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