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Naming Phasmids – A Beginner's Guide

by Phil Bragg

How it all started

Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778) founded the systems of scientific names that are used for naming plants and animals. The rules are similar, although the two systems are separate.

The system for naming animals dates from 1758. This is the publication date of Linnaeus' tenth edition of 'Systema Naturae' (the botanical system uses 1753 as the starting date).

'Systema Naturae' (1758) included three Phasmids. All were placed in the genus Gryllus. Gryllus is now only used for crickets. The Phasmids are now called: Phasma gigas, Pseudophasma phthisicum, and Phyllium siccifolium.

For more details about Linnaeus see Phasmid Studies, 16(2): 19-24.

How the names work

  • The system is binomial. In other words, there are two names.
  • Think of it in terms of a phone book entry. Surname first, then personal name.
  • The generic name comes first, then the specific name.
  • You need to use both together. There are lots of people called Phil. There are quite a few called Bragg. There is only one Phil Bragg (or if there is another, I've never met him).

The basic rules

  • The binomial name is also called the scientific name.
  • The name should be in italics.
  • The first letter of the generic name is a capital.
  • The specific name is all lower case letters, e.g. Dajaca filiformis.

More quick rules

  • The person who first describes and names a species is the author of that name.
  • The author's name is put after the scientific name but not in italics.
  • The year it was first described goes after the author's name with a comma in between, e.g. Dajaca filiformis Bragg, 1992.
  • Use brackets around the author and date if the species is moved to another genus, e.g. Heteropteryx dilatata (Parkinson, 1798) was originally Phasma dilatatum.

Standard abbreviations

  • After the first use, a genus is often abbreviated to the first letter and a full stop, e.g. once I have mentioned Lonchodes I can just write L. amaurops and L. harmani.
  • Use sp. if the species is unknown, e.g. Haaniella sp.
  • Use spp. if you mean more than one species, e.g. Haaniella spp.
  • Use ssp. for an unknown subspecies, e.g. Pylaemenes borneensis ssp. (There are three subspecies P. borneensis borneensis, P. borneensis sepilokensis and P. borneensis waterstradti).

See also