The Random Way Animals Get Their Scientific Names

After being away for since 2020, animator Sam O’Nella used his distinctive stick figure to humorously describe the seemingly random manner in which animals are given scientific names.

We all know about the scientific names of animals but did you ever wonder what they actually mean? To find out we must look too taxonomists. They’re the guys responsible for the systems of nomenclature we use to classify organisms and boy are they convoluted.

While the process is random isn’t necessarily chaotic, as certain rules do apply.

There is some method to the madness. One rule is the “Principle of Priority”. This states that once somebody publishes their chosen name for a species for the first time, that’s the name. Other taxonomists typically can’t change it this has led to plenty of misnomers coined by whoever got their foot in the door first. Particularly in the case of the guys doing this stuff before we had nthe luxury of genetic analysis.

How Animals Get Scientific Names
Lori Dorn
Lori Dorn

Lori is a Laughing Squid Contributing Editor based in New York City who has been writing blog posts for over a decade. She also enjoys making jewelry, playing guitar, taking photos and mixing craft cocktails.