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Linneaus and the Science of Taxonomy

Carolus Linneaus was a biologist who lived in the 18th century and created the binomial naming system we use for all plants and animals. You know that humans are Homo sapiens, right? Binomial means two names: one for genus (Homo) and the other for species (sapiens). Every known kind of plant, animal, and microorganism has a name that takes this form: Genus species.

So that all biologists will know when they are reading the genus and species name of an organism, we always italicize the genus and species or underline it:

Genus species or Genus species

Also note, we always capitalize the name of the Genus, but leave the name of the species in lower case.

Most of these scientific names are in Latin or derivatives of Latin, so unless you know Latin, you may have trouble matching a genus and species with the common name of an organism. But, sometimes the binomial nomenclature of an organism is easy to match with the name. For example:

Bos taurus = cattle            Spinacia oleracea = spinach             Rosa spp. = rose

Of course, within a genus, there may be many species. As you see in the rose example above, we listed all the different species of roses as "spp." This abbreviation stands for "species" and it means that there are several different species that fall under this common name.

There’s another abbreviation you will see sometimes: "var." This stands for variety and it means that this particular plant is a race of this species. For example, cauliflower and brocolli have the same genus and species names, but they are different races, which explains why they look quite different.

Take a look at some of the scientific names of the different types of fruits.

Follicle

Capsule

Legume

Achene

Samara

Silique

Berry

Schizocarp

Caryopsis

Hesperidium

Nut

Drupe

Pepo

Pome

Aggregate

Multiple

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