Additional Notes - A Brief History of the Science of Naming Things.
Today, we can look back at the history of taxonomy, see how far it has gone and truly appreciate it. Still, it is hard to predict where it will go next. As a field of science, taxonomy really exemplifies what makes science reliable in the long run. We see a problem and we fix it. Again and again. The progress may be slow, but we keep trying to improve every bit of it. Mostly, these improvements don’t hold up, or are simply completely wrong, but every once in a while we strike gold. It sometimes seem as if it is a futile strategy, shooting in all directions like that. But humans are a creative bunch, and sometimes a bright new idea comes up that gives the whole process a boost. It seems to be working for us, so far.
As a student of a scientific field, reading about taxonomy’s history felt important. I have had to use and rely upon many of these binomial names before, they make work much smoother. And so knowing about the origins of the system, how long it has been developing and the amount of thinking that went into this, really solidifies its place in science, in my mind. I took it for granted - it was another tool that science use to do greater things. But now, this system is a great thing on its own.
In the article I mention a few taxonomic ranks, such as genera or species. I wanted to show an example of a full classification of a species, going through all of its levels. For example, let’s look at the Mus musculus more closely. I’ll trace its taxonomical rankings from high to low. The highest ranking is Domain. There are three domains - Eukarya, Bacteria and Archaea. The latter two contain single-cell organisms, which automatically puts the house mouse in the Domain Eukarya. The next highest level of ranking is Kingdom. Examples for kingdoms are animals, plants and fungi. Under the kingdom Animalia, there is the phylum of Chordata - these groups many animals (fish, birds, mammals) that possess a few common properties. Under Chordata, there’s the class Mammalia - that is, all mammals. Under Mammalia comes the class Rodentia which includes all rodents. Under Rodentia, there is the family Muridae, which is the biggest family in the Rodentia class. In the family Muridae, there is the genus Mus, which is the largest genus of mice, containing over 700 types. Under the genus mus, there is the species musculus, which is the specific type of mouse we were talking about. By the way, guess who coined the term Mus. Yup, Linnaeus did.
In my last blog post, ‘Along came Boom-Bob’, I left a riddle as a clue about the subject of this article. It’s such a specific riddle, that makes it hard to solve. Solving the riddle will give you a clue about the subject of the article, but the article does not solve the riddle. Here’s the riddle: What do Abe Lincoln, Julie Andrews, Marie Curie and Pope John Paul II have in common? Surprisingly, though, Sir David Attenborough does not share this trait.
The answer is - there are roses named after the four people I mentioned:
Abe Lincoln - Rosa mister lincoln.
Julie Andrews - Rosa julie andrews.
Marie Curie - Rosa marie curie.
Pope John Paul II - Rosa pope john paul II.
There are hundreds of roses named after famous people. Sir David Attenborough does not seem to have a rose named after him, which is surprising because many other species are named after him. Here are some examples:
A Dragonfly - Acisoma attenboroughi.
A carnivorous pitcher plant - Nepenthes attenboroughii.
A Spider - Prethopalpus attenboroughi.
An extinct fish - Materpiscis Attenboroughi.
I like that there are so many species named after celebrities. There are so many species to name and you have to be creative. Some of these are really fun names. Albunea groeningi, for example, is a mole crab with a name that honors Matt Groening, the creator of the Simpsons. There are two species of extinct arthropods that are named after ACDC’s Angus and Malcolm Young - Maldybulakia angusi and Maldybulakia malcolmi. The most interesting species name that I found is Tianchisaurus nedegoapeferima, can you guess the origins of this name? I'll give you a clue - it's a name of a dinosaur. Well, it is actually named after the cast of jurassic park: Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, Richard Attenborough, Bob Peck, Martin Ferrero, Ariana Richards, Joseph Mazello. If any of you ever get to name a species of kumquats, please consider naming it after me, it would be amazing.
You might also want to visit the wikipedia page for organisms named after the Harry Potter Series. It’s currently not a long list, but I love the fact that there are 3 species named after Aragog.
For a more detailed history of taxonomy, you can check out Mariette Manktelow’s ‘History of Taxonomy’.
For a more detailed paper about the legacy of Linnaeus, check out Marta Paterlini’s ‘There shall be order. The legacy of Linnaeus in the age of molecular biology’.