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What's in a Name?

A scientific name identifies a species.

Every known species of plant, animal, and microorganism has a unique scientific name that is different from any other species name.

A scientific name remains the same anywhere, in any language.

The common, or everyday, name of an organism can be confusing -- it may differ from place to place within a country as well as from country to country. The scientific name of an organism is always the same. Scientific names are derived from Greek or Latin words, or latinized versions of words. Scientists all over the world, no matter what language they speak, use scientific names.

A scientific name is a binomial—a name made up from two words.

The first word identifies the genus. A genus is a group of closely related species. The genus is always in italics and capitalized (Tyrannosaurus). The second name identifies the particular species of organism. The species name is always in italics and lowercase (rex). Together, the two-word name identifies the species.

In the game, Name That Reptile, we use only the genus name of an animal.

A scientific name contains information.

It may describe an important or prominent feature of an organism, such as the three horns of a Triceratops (three, horn, face). It may refer to a behavior, such as stealing eggs, the once presumed behavior of the Oviraptor (egg, thief). It may even contain the latinized name of a person or place.


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