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Scientific Naming of Living Organisms

Scientific naming involves assigning an organism two names in Latin language. The naming system was developed by Carolus Linnaeus in the 18th century.

Organisms always have common names and scientific names. Common names are local names by which the organisms are known in the vernacular languages.

In particular, a cat is an English name, mbura is a luo name, paka is a Swahili name etc. these names differ across cultures and cannot be used by scientists to communicate across the world.

This makes sharing scientific knowledge on organisms very difficult. There was need for a common language and this led to development of scientific language in latin.

Latin was the preferred language since it was the first language of civilization that was widely spoken at that time. Similarly, latin language is a dead language hence not subjected to a lot of changes. The scientific names are, therefore, static.

Scientific names are the valid names by which organisms are known all over the world.

In scientific naming, an organism is assigned a specific name that is unique. The specific name adopts two names. This implies that the specific scientific name of an organism has two names. This double naming system is known as binomial nomenclature.

In binomial nomenclature, an organism is assigned its genus name and species name.

Assigning of scientific names to living organisms is governed by a definite set of rules which are internationally recognized and referred to as binomial nomenclature which literally means the rule of double naming system.

Rules of Binomial Nomenclature

Binomial nomenclature requires that:

1) The first part of the scientific name is that of the genus name which should begin with a capital letter. The second name is that of species. The species name should be written in small letters e.g.
a) Maize- Zea mays
b) Lion- Panthera leo
c) Leopard- Panthera pardus
d) Domestic dog- Canis familiaris
e) Human being- Homo sapiens

2) When printed in books and other printed works, the scientific names should be printed in italics. However, in handwritten manuscripts and typed works, the genus and species names should be lined separately.
Printed work- Homo sapiens
Hand written- Homo sapiens

3) The specific name is frequently written with the name of the scientist who first adequately described and named the organism e.g. Balanus balanoides Linneaus.

4) Scientists must give a latinised name for a newly described animal or plant species where a Latin name is missing e,g.
Aloe kilifiensis- A type of aloe found in kilifi
Meladogyne kikuyuensis- A nematode found in kikuyu.

Origin of scientific names

Scientific names assigned to organisms can be:
• Descriptive
• Geographical
• Commemorative

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