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A species description is a formal description of a newly discovered
species In biology, a species is the basic unit of biological classification, classification and a taxonomic rank of an organism, as well as a unit of biodiversity. A species is often defined as the largest group of organisms in which any two individu ...

species
, usually in the form of a
scientific paper : ''For a broader class of literature, see Academic publishing Academic publishing is the subfield of publishing Publishing is the activity of making information, literature, music, software and other content available to the public for sa ...
. Its purpose is to give a clear description of a new species of
organism In biology Biology is the natural science that studies life and living organisms, including their anatomy, physical structure, Biochemistry, chemical processes, Molecular biology, molecular interactions, Physiology, physiological me ...

organism
and explain how it differs from species which have been described previously or are related. The species description often contains photographs or other illustrations of the type material and states in which museums it has been deposited. The publication in which the species is described gives the new species a formal
scientific name In taxonomy Taxonomy (general) is the practice and science of classification of things or concepts, including the principles that underlie such classification. The term may also refer to a specific classification scheme. Originally used only ...
. Some 1.9 million species have been identified and described, out of some 8.7 million that may actually exist. Millions more have become
extinct Extinction is the termination of a kind of organism In biology Biology is the natural science that studies life and living organisms, including their anatomy, physical structure, Biochemistry, chemical processes, Molecular biol ...

extinct
throughout the existence of life on Earth.


Naming process

A name of a new species becomes valid ( available in zoological terminology) with the date of publication of its formal scientific description. Once the scientist has performed the necessary research to determine that the discovered organism represents a new species, the scientific results are summarized in a scientific manuscript, either as part of a book, or as a paper to be submitted to a scientific journal. A scientific species description must fulfill several formal criteria specified by the
nomenclature codes Nomenclature codes or codes of nomenclature are the various rulebooks that govern biological taxonomic Taxonomy (general) is the practice and science of classification of things or concepts, including the principles that underlie such classifica ...
, e.g. selection of at least one
type specimen In biology, a type is a particular specimen (or in some cases a group of specimens) of an organism In biology, an organism (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ὀργανισμός, ''organismos'') is any individual contiguous system that embodi ...
. These criteria are intended to ensure that the species name is clear and unambiguous, for example, the
International Code of Zoological Nomenclature The International Code of Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN) is a widely accepted in that rules the formal of treated as s. It is also informally known as the ICZN Code, for its publisher, the (which shares the acronym "ICZN"). The rules princi ...
(ICZN) states that "Authors should exercise reasonable care and consideration in forming new names to ensure that they are chosen with their subsequent users in mind and that, as far as possible, they are appropriate, compact, euphonious, memorable, and do not cause offence." Species names are written in the 26 letters of the Latin alphabet, but many species names are based on words from other languages, Latinized. Once the manuscript has been accepted for publication,One example of an abstract of an article naming a new species can be found at the new species name is officially created. Once a species name has been assigned and approved, it can generally not be changed except in the case of error. For example, a species of beetle ('' Anophthalmus hitleri'') was named by a German collector after
Adolf Hitler Adolf Hitler (; 20 April 188930 April 1945) was an Austrian-born German politician who was the dictator of Nazi Germany, Germany from 1933 to 1945. Adolf Hitler's rise to power, He rose to power as the leader of the Nazi Party, becoming Cha ...

Adolf Hitler
in 1933 when he had recently become chancellor of Germany. It is not clear whether such a dedication would be considered acceptable or appropriate today, but the name remains in use. Species names have been chosen on many different bases. Most common is a naming for the species' external appearance, its origin, or the species name is a dedication for a certain person. Examples would include a bat species named for the two stripes on its back (''
Saccopteryx bilineata The greater sac-winged bat (''Saccopteryx bilineata'') is a bat of the family Emballonuridae native to Central and South America. They are the most common bats seen in the rainforest, as they often roost on the outside of large trees. They are i ...

Saccopteryx bilineata
''), a frog named for its Bolivian origin (''
Phyllomedusa boliviana ''Phyllomedusa boliviana'' is a species In biology, a species is the basic unit of biological classification, classification and a taxonomic rank of an organism, as well as a unit of biodiversity. A species is often defined as the largest gr ...
''), and an ant species dedicated to the actor Harrison Ford ('' Pheidole harrisonfordi''). A scientific name in honor of a person or persons is a known as a taxonomic eponym or eponymic; patronym and matronym are the gendered terms for this. A number of humorous species names also exist. Literary examples include the genus name ''
Borogovia ''Borogovia'' is a troodontid Troodontidae is a family In human society, family (from la, familia) is a group of people related either by consanguinity (by recognized birth) or affinity (by marriage or other relationship). The purpose ...

Borogovia
'' (an extinct dinosaur), which is named after the borogove, a mythical character from Lewis Carrol's poem "
Jabberwocky "Jabberwocky" is a nonsense poem written by Lewis Carroll Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (; 27 January 1832 – 14 January 1898), better known by his pen name Lewis Carroll, was an English writer of children's fiction, notably ' and its sequel ...

Jabberwocky
". A second example, ''
Macrocarpaea apparata Image:Mac app.jpg, 240px, ''Macrocarpaea apparata'' inflorescence The genus ''Macrocarpaea'', with 105 species and two hybrids of 0.5 m herbs, shrubs, epiphytes and small trees to 10 m tall, is the largest genus of the tribe Helieae of the gentian ...

Macrocarpaea apparata
'' (a tall plant) was named after the magical spell "to apparate" from the Harry Potter novels by J. K. Rowling, as it seemed to appear out of nowhere. In 1975, the British naturalist
Peter Scott Sir Peter Markham Scott, (14 September 1909 – 29 August 1989) was a British ornithologist, conservation movement, conservationist, painter, naval officer, broadcaster and Sportsperson, sportsman. The only child of Antarctic explorer Robert Fal ...
proposed the binomial name '''' ("Ness monster with diamond-shaped fin") for the Loch Ness Monster; it was soon spotted that it was an anagram of "Monster hoax by Sir Peter S".


Species names recognizing benefactors

Species have frequently been named by scientists in recognition of supporters and benefactors. For example, the genus ''
Victoria Victoria most commonly refers to: * Victoria (Australia), a state of the Commonwealth of Australia * Victoria, British Columbia, provincial capital of British Columbia, Canada * Victoria (mythology), Roman goddess of Victory * Victoria, Seychelles ...
'' (a flowering waterplant) was named in honour of Queen Victoria of Great Britain. More recently, a species of lemur ('' Avahi cleesei'') was named after the actor
John Cleese John Marwood Cleese ( ; born 27 October 1939) is an English actor, comedian, screenwriter, and producer. Emerging from the Cambridge Footlights in the 1960s, he first achieved success at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe The Edinburgh Festival ...

John Cleese
in recognition of his work to publicize the plight of lemurs in Madagascar. Non-profit ecological organizations may also allow benefactors to name new species in exchange for financial support for taxonomic research and nature conservation. A German non-profit organisation (gemeinnütziger Verein), BIOPAT - Patrons for Biodiversity has raised more than $450,000 for research and conservation through sponsorship of over 100 species using this model. An individual example of this system is the ''
Callicebus aureipalatii The Madidi titi, also known as the GoldenPalace.com monkey or the golden palace monkey, is a titi, a kind of New World monkey New World monkeys are the five families of primate A primate ( ) (from Latin , from 'prime, first rank') is a ...
'' (or "monkey of the Golden Palace"), which was named after the Golden Palace casino in recognition of a $650,000 contribution to the
Madidi National Park Madidi () is a national park in the upper Amazon river basin in Bolivia Bolivia ; ay, Wuliwya ; Quechuan languages, Quechua: ''Puliwya'' , officially the Plurinational State of Bolivia, is a landlocked country located in western-centra ...
in Bolivia in 2005. The International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants (ICN) discourages this practice somewhat: "Recommendation 20A. Authors forming generic names should comply with the following ... (h) Not dedicate genera to persons quite unconcerned with botany, mycology, phycology, or natural science in general."


History of species descriptions

Early biologists often published entire volumes or multiple-volume works of descriptions in an attempt to catalog all known species. These catalogs typically featured extensive descriptions of each species and were often illustrated upon reprinting. The first of these large catalogs was
Aristotle Aristotle (; grc-gre, Ἀριστοτέλης ''Aristotélēs'', ; 384–322 BC) was a Greek philosopher A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questio ...

Aristotle
's ''
History of Animals ''History of Animals'' ( grc-gre, Τῶν περὶ τὰ ζῷα ἱστοριῶν, ''Ton peri ta zoia historion'', "Inquiries on Animals"; la, Historia Animalium, "History of Animals") is one of the major texts on biology by the ancient Gr ...
'', published around 343 B.C. Aristotle included descriptions of creatures, mostly fish and invertebrates, in his homeland, and several
mythological creature A legendary or mythological creature, also called fabulous creature and fabulous beast, is a supernatural The supernatural encompasses supposed phenomena that are not subject to the laws of nature.https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/su ...
s rumored to live in far-away lands, such as the
manticore The manticore or mantichore (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Ro ...

manticore
. In 77 A.D.
Pliny the Elder #REDIRECT Pliny the Elder #REDIRECT Pliny the Elder#REDIRECT Pliny the Elder Gaius Plinius Secundus (AD 23/2479), called Pliny the Elder (), was a Roman author, a naturalist Natural history is a domain of inquiry involving organisms, includi ...

Pliny the Elder
dedicated several volumes of his ''
Natural History Natural history is a domain of inquiry involving organisms, including animals, fungus, fungi, and plants, in their natural environment, leaning more towards observational than experimental methods of study. A person who studies natural history ...
'' to the description of all life forms he knew to exist. He appears to have read Aristotle's work, since he writes about many of the same far-away mythological creatures. Toward the end of the 12th century, ''
Konungs skuggsjá ''Konungs skuggsjá'' (Old Norse Old Norse, Old Nordic, or Old Scandinavian was a North Germanic languages, North Germanic language that was spoken by inhabitants of Scandinavia and their Viking expansion, overseas settlements from about th ...
'', an
Old Norse Old Norse, Old Nordic, or Old Scandinavian is a stage of development of North Germanic dialects before their final divergence into separate Nordic languages. Old Norse was spoken by inhabitants of Scandinavia Scandinavia; : ''Skades ...
philosophical Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about existence Existence is the ability of an entity to interact with physical or mental reality Reality is the sum or aggregate of all that is real o ...

philosophical
didactic Didacticism is a philosophy that emphasizes instructional and informative qualities in literature Literature broadly is any collection of Writing, written work, but it is also used more narrowly for writings specifically considered to be an ...
work, featured several descriptions of the whales, seals, and monsters of the Icelandic seas. These descriptions were brief and often erroneous, and they included a description of the
mermaid In folklore Folklore is the expressive body of culture shared by a particular group of people; it encompasses the tradition A tradition is a belief A belief is an Attitude (psychology), attitude that something is the case, or that ...

mermaid
and a rare island-like sea monster called Hafgufu. The author was hesitant to mention the beast (known today to be fictitious) for fear of its size, but felt it was important enough to be included in his descriptions. However, the earliest recognized species authority is
Linnaeus Carl Linnaeus (; 23 May 1707 – 10 January 1778), also known after his Nobility#Ennoblement, ennoblement as Carl von Linné#Blunt, Blunt (2004), p. 171. (), was a Swedish botanist, zoologist, taxonomist, and physician who formalised binomi ...

Linnaeus
, who standardized the modern
taxonomy Taxonomy (general) is the practice and science of classification of things or concepts, including the principles that underlie such classification. The term may also refer to a specific classification scheme. Originally used only about biological ...
system beginning with his ''
Systema Naturae ' (originally in Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roman Republic ...
'' in 1735. As the catalog of known species was increasing rapidly, it became impractical to maintain a single work documenting every species. Publishing a paper documenting a single species was much faster and could be done by scientists with less broadened scopes of study. For example, a scientist who discovered a new species of insect would not need to understand plants, or frogs, or even insects which did not resemble the species, but would only need to understand closely related insects.


Modern species descriptions

Formal species descriptions today follow strict guidelines set forth by the
codes of nomenclature Nomenclature codes or codes of nomenclature are the various rulebooks that govern biological taxonomic Taxonomy (general) is the practice and science of classification of things or concepts, including the principles that underlie such classifica ...
. Very detailed formal descriptions are made by scientists, who usually study the organism closely for a considerable time. A diagnosis may be used instead of, or as well as the description. A diagnosis specifies the distinction between the new species and other species. In recent times, new species descriptions have been made without voucher specimens, and this has been controversial.Kannan, Ragupathy (2007). New Bird Descriptions Without Proper Voucher Specimens: Reflections After the Bugun Liocichla Case. Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society 104: 12-18. https://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/part/154730#/summary


Rates of species description

According to the RetroSOS report, the following numbers of species have been described each year since 2000. :


See also

*
Binomial nomenclature In taxonomy Taxonomy (general) is the practice and science of classification of things or concepts, including the principles that underlie such classification. The term may also refer to a specific classification scheme. Originally used only ...
*
Biological type In biology, a type is a particular specimen (or in some cases a group of specimens) of an organism In biology, an organism () is any organic, life, living system that functions as an individual entity. All organisms are composed of cel ...
*
Botanical Latin Botanical Latin is a technical language based on New Latin, used for descriptions of botanical taxon, taxa. Until 2012, International Code of Botanical Nomenclature mandated Botanical Latin to be used for the descriptions of most new taxa. It is sti ...
*
Glossary of scientific naming This is a list of terms and symbols used in scientific names for organisms, and in describing the names. For proper parts of the names themselves, see List of Latin and Greek words commonly used in systematic names. Note that many of the abbreviati ...
* Taxonomic treatment *
Undescribed taxon In Taxonomy (biology), taxonomy, an undescribed taxon is a taxon (for example, a species) that has been discovered, but not yet formally described and named. The various Nomenclature Codes specify the requirements for a new taxon to be validly des ...
* :Species described in the 21st century, with subcategories; contains links to earlier centuries


References


Bibliography

*


Other sources

* Winston, Judith E. 1999. Describing Species: Practical Taxonomic Procedure For Biologists. Columbia University Press.


External links

* {{DEFAULTSORT:Species Description
Description Description is the pattern of narrative development that aims to make vivid a place, object, character, or group. Description is one of four rhetorical modes Rhetorical modes (also known as modes of discourse) describe the variety, conventions, ...
Biological descriptions