Tags: scientific names

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Erudition and ego...

What the scientific, erudite types have to realize:

When an Ordinary Person sees a beautiful grasshopper, s/he is quite interested.

IMG_8313


But if told that it is a Cyrtacanthacris tatarica tatarica, and that the classification is Animalia > Arthropoda > Insecta > Orthoptera > Acridoidea > Acrididae > Cyrtacanthacridinae > Cyrtacanthacris > Cyrtacanthacris tatarica (Linnaeus, 1758) > Cyrtacanthacris tatarica tatarica (Linnaeus, 1758) (I am not joking), s/he would 1) be totally zapped and bewildered, 2) lose interest.

Of course, a side effect would be 3) being very impressed by the person who is giving that information...which may have actually been just gleaned off the Internet (as I did.)

This whole thing of having ids in a long-dead language and translating that Latin (and Greek) in a suitably pseudo-friendly, condescending way to These Lesser Mortals is something I find many scientists (and pseudo scientists from WhatsApp University) guilty of.

And it's true of every field of human endeavour. I appear much more knowledgeable if, instead of saying, "enjoy this rAgam", I say, "listen to the prayOgams of Podalangapriya"; more learned-sounding if, instead of "enjoy the rocky landscape", I say, "Look at the mixture of metaingenious rock and the patterns of the earlyite (not the laterite)"; instead of "Look at how beautiful that fish-shaped cloud is", I say, "Cumulonimbus clouds take on so many interesting forms"..and so it goes.

Not you, of course, and never me...but Those Others 😃
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Of names, knowledge..and showing off

What the scientific, erudite types have to realize: When an Ordinary Person sees a beautiful grasshopper, s/he is quite interested.

But if told that it is a Cyrtacanthacris tatarica tatarica, and that the classification is Animalia > Arthropoda > Insecta > Orthoptera > Acridoidea > Acrididae > Cyrtacanthacridinae > Cyrtacanthacris > Cyrtacanthacris tatarica (Linnaeus, 1758) > Cyrtacanthacris tatarica tatarica (Linnaeus, 1758), s/he would 1) be totally zapped and bewildered, 2) lose interest.

Of course, a side effect would be 3) being very impressed by the person who is giving that information...which may have actually been just gleaned off the Internet (as I did.) This whole thing of having ids in a long-dead language and translating that Latin (and Greek) in a suitably pseudo-friendly, condescending way to These Lesser Mortals is something I find many scientists (and pseudo scientists from WhatsApp University) guilty of.

And it's true of every field of human endeavour. I appear much more knowledgeable if, instead of saying, "enjoy this rAgam", I say, "listen to the prayOgams of Podalangapriya"; more learned-sounding if, instead of "enjoy the rocky landscape", I say, "Look at the mixture of metaingenious rock and the patterns of the earlyite (not the laterite)"; instead of "Look at how beautiful that fish-shaped cloud is", I say, "Columbusnimbu clouds take on so many interesting forms"..and so it goes. Not you, of course, and never me...but Those Others...!
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More on scientific names....

I do understand the need for scientific names, but I also must add the caveat that they are not required by everyone; some of us ambling-along nature-lovers find some scientific names very off-putting indeed. How interesting it is, to tell a group of children, "See the Spittle-bugs!

spittle bug photo IMG_3470.jpg

Can you see how that froth protects the larvae?" rather than saying:

"The froghoppers, or the superfamily Cercopoidea, are a group of Hemipteran insects, in the suborder Auchenorrhyncha. Traditionally, most of this superfamily was considered a single family, Cercopidae, but this family has been split into three separate families for many years now: the Aphrophoridae, Cercopidae, and Clastopteridae. More recently, the family Epipygidae has been removed from the Aphrophoridae."

If I spout that paragraph at a group of children or adults whom I am taking on a nature trail, they will disappear faster than the dew on the grass...or the froth on it! The only Superfamily many children would be interested in would be from the movie "The Incredibles"!
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Names, knowledge, and elitism

I tend to notice an elitism about Knowing Names. I start out by looking at a beautiful bird, or a pretty butterfly, or a lovely tree. I then look up to the person who confidently identifies it for me. A Bulbul! I am thrilled that I have this knowledge.

red-whiskered bulbul vs 100710 photo IMG_6372.jpg

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here

is a photograph, with Adesh's view of scientific names, and my response to him.
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Amphibians......

Frogs and toads...their new scientific names are quite horrific. Gone are the simple old days of Rana and Bufo. Now, Seshadri the Frogman informs me.... there are names like Fejervarya, Philautus which is now Raorchestes.....! and then, he says, there is Nasikabatrachus (nasika=nose batracha=frog meaning pig nosed frog!)

A pig-nosed frog must be a real beauty...

Please note the scientific names in the illustration below, what sort of scientist do you think thought them up?

Here's a

SKITTER FROG (Euphlyctis, possibly Cyanophlyctis)

Skitter Frog (Euphlyctis, possibly Cyanophlyctis).

and here's a


CRICKET FROG (Fejervarya sp)...


Cricket Frog (Fejervarya sp)


no, it wasn't called that because we were having the World Cup Final the next day!
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Scientific names...

Scientific names are a very valuable id tool, and that the unique names mean that they won't let anyone get confused.

Well....that's what they (the boffins) SAY.

I got these two names from

Shyamal

recently, with the subject title, "Etching bird names into one's memory".....

Parastratiosphecomyia stratiosphecomyioides
Gammaracanthuskytodermogammarus loricatobaicalensis

(The first is

the Soldier Fly

and the second is

an amphipod


I cannot see myself ever getting comfortable with such names....so I wrote back to Shyamal:


As much as I want to etch
Such names into my memory...
I'll only gag and retch
And never remember the names, only the features.
And that will be the end of the story.
Could you go over YOUR recollections hoary
And bring out and fetch
The common names of these creatures?
The scientific names....are,literally, a stretch!

I also find that suddenly, scientific names themselves are changed; for example, all the "Bufo" and "Rana" of my younger days are now gone and some horrendously difficult names have taken their place.

So...scientific names will not be my great favourites....
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Scientific names are necessary, but...

If you heard something being called "Ourapteryx clara, Geometridae", would you ever associate it with this ?

Such a beauty, with an Orrible name....

I will never be a botanist, zoologist, lepidopterist, or any other ist. I would call that the star moth and enjoy its beauty...

Well, I realize others need to have a unique name to id it by, but that's NOT what I would like to call it!


Here's another image from my INW friend Kiran Srivastava:
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Names, classifications, and knowledge

In one of the egroups I belong to, there has been some debate about using the common names or scientific names of trees/plants, with some people feeling that it is elitist to use scientific names. Here are my thoughts:

I too am a beginner with very limited knowledge, but I find it very interesting to look at both common and scientific names and that sometimes leads me into so many different realms: of history, geography, the Latin language, some local language influences....to give some examples:

History: The Tamarind tree...the name is derived from Tamar-e-hind, or Date of India. This name was given to the trees by the Mughals.

Geography: Names like Bombax indica, Mangifera Indica, or the Ficus Mysorensis....these are probably the precursors of today's "Geographical Indication"! They say that these trees have been "placed" in India.

The Latin language: Like Swagat has explained one name; "Ficus" means, "of the fig, fig", so if one finds trees with any sort of figs on them they are likely to belong to the Ficus classification. The name holarrhena antidysenterica, surely is self-explanatory about the use of the tree.

Local influences on the Latin language: sometimes local names or cultural indications are included, like the Krishna Buttercup has the scientific name Ficus Krishnae, or the Peepul is Ficus Religiosa.

The same is often true of other aspects of Nature, too. Panthera Tigris...I start wondering whether this has something to do with the Tigris river in Mesopotamia. Did they once have tigers there, too? Interesting speculation!

I must also admit that many bird, insect and butterfly names completely confound me! Why call a butterfly the Common Mormon? The only Mormon I know about is Brigham Young and his band of followers in Utah!... But I leave it at that and accept the names as they are.

So to me, each branch of study leads me into several other areas of knowledge, which are all interconnected in the grand whole of Nature. I pick up a small pearl of knowledge, here and there, while, as as great a scientist as Newton said, "before me lies the vast ocean of Truth", not yet discovered, and probably beyond human comprehension.

Thanks to the Internet and several search engines, much of specialized information need not be physically remembered but stored and accessed, so beginners like me need not try to remember everything.The internet allows us, also, to get the information from experts who are willing to share with us. No one can really know everything, but the really knowledgeable people are those who have all this stored in the original memory bank...their brains!

On my voyage of discovery, I leave profound knowledge to the experts and am happy to learn just a little bit every day. And if I forget it...well, I have the experts and the Internet!