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NAMING FISHES: THE CORRECT TERMINOLOGY
 

NAMING FISHES: THE CORRECT TERMINOLOGY

Scientific and common names

Scientific names

The scientific name is the only one which is recognized internationally: it ensures a universal means of communication between workers in the field. It is given in Latin, following a tradition dating back to the 18th century, and consists of two parts:

  • the genus name, with an initial capital or uppercase letter.
  • the species name, without a capital.

Common names

Common names

The scientific name is chosen by whoever discovers the fish, but new scientific advances may cause the name to be changed. The old name, now of secondary importance, continues as a synonym. These changes mostly affect the name of the genus. When the species name is not known for certain, we use the abbreviation sp., an abbreviation of the Latin word species.

Common names

Often the origin of the common name is obscure. It may be translated from Latin, from another language, borrow a scientist's name, or simply be invented as circumstances dictate, often somewhat controversially. The absence of any strict rule gives rise to confusion; while some fish have no common name, others have several. Such is the case with Gymnocorymbus ternetzi, which has been variously called the black tetra, the black widow, the blackamoor, and the petticoat fish, but all referring to the same fish.

PRINCIPLES OF THE CLASSIFICATION OF LIVING CREATURES

A genus can comprise several species sharing common characteristics. A group of genera related biologically and anatomically is called a family. Related families make up an order. This gives us the following general scheme:

Barbus oligolepis

Barbus oligolepis.

Where problems arise

Problems of nomenclature — commoner with fish and plants than with invertebrates - can involve confusions between one species and another. Sometimes the Latin name continues to be used in the literature, among commercial dealers, and in contacts between aquarists, until the new scientific name asserts itself. Some newly discovered species are initially designated by a numerical code or a provisional name. On the other hand, sometimes the "new" species turns out to be one already known: the result is that one species now has two names. In this case it is the confusion between species which gives rise to the problem. The multiplication of breeds, varieties, and hybrids hardly helps matters; scientists themselves sometimes have trouble finding their way through the maze, so what hope for the ordinary hobbyist?

In this book, we employ the scientific names in common use today and have deliberately omitted those too recently coined to win general acceptance. You will also find Latin synonyms, and names of breeds and varieties.


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