Q:

Why are scientific names important?

A:

Scientific names are important because they allow people around the world to communicate accurately about animal species. With the help of international rules on naming animals, zoologists avoid naming the same species twice. This means that each scientific name is unique.

According to the University of Michigan Museum of Zoology, scientific names enable scientists from various parts of the world to study and discuss species without ambiguity. For example, the scientific name Lepomis macrochirus for a bluegill sunfish cannot be used to name any other species. A Russian scientist who is studying sunfish and wants to talk to a Canadian researcher about the animal will use the accepted scientific name so that both of them know exactly what species they are talking about. Furthermore, scientific names are used to identify an animal’s relationship with other species. A scientific name consists of a generic name, which is the genus of the organism, and a specific name which is the organism’s species. In the example used previously, the generic name is the genus Lepomis to which bluegill sunfish belongs, while the specific name is macrochirus. Most genera have many species. In the genus Lepomis, there are various other sunfish species such as Lepomis gibbosus, Lepomis megalotis and Lepomis cyanellus. They share the same generic name, indicating that they are closely related to each other compared to other fish species.


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