The names of organisms are critical search terms in many bibliographic, genomic, and reference databases. The biological sciences established a “binomial nomenclature,” as the formal and preferred systems of naming biological organisms. Sometimes the phrase “Latin name” may be encountered rather than the preferred “scientific name” of a species: the Genus and species names in Latin (or a Latin-ized word). For instance, humans are known generically by their scientific names as, Homo sapiens (genus Homo, species sapiens). This naming convention was first proposed by Carl Linnaeus (Carl von Linné, Latin-ized as Carolus Linnaeus) in the mid-1730s and published and revised through the 1740s as Systema Naturae, which grew from a pamphlet into a multi volume work. In 1753 Linneaus published Species Plantarum ("The Species of Plants"), which more than two centuries later is the basis for plant nomenclature used today!
Because of its importance as important search terms in many databases, access to references on taxonomy and biological names is an important “finding tool” for biologists. Several of the major (and overlapping) resources are provided here.
Catalog of Life
The Species 2000 & ITIS Catalogue of Life is planned to become a comprehensive catalogue of all known species of organisms on Earth by the year 2011.
Encyclopedia of Life (EoL)
EoL is a new project to create an online reference source and database for every one of the 1.8 million species that are named and known on this planet.
Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS)
ITIS provides authoritative taxonomic information on plants, animals, fungi, and microbes of North America and the world.
This is a site providing a history of naming biological organisms and a general review of naming rules.
NCBI Taxonomy Browser
This site is maintained by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) at the National Library of Medicine. It provides comprehensive data on the biological naming of organisms for which genomic data is gathered. The database can be searched by common or scientific names, or browsed by broad (phylogenetic) categories of organisms. An essential resource for researchers, faculty, and students in areas related to genomics, molecular and structural biology and genetics, systems biology and other disciplines and subdisciplines in the New Biology.
Species 2000 is a ‘federation’ of database organizations working closely with users, taxonomists and sponsoring agencies. Each database covers all known species in the group, using a consistent taxonomic system. The participating databases are widely distributed throughout the world and currently number 52. The program in partnership with the Integrated Taxonomic Information system (ITIS) of North America currently produces the Catalogue of Life. This is used by the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF, http://www.gbif.org/) and Encyclopedia of Life (EoL) as the taxonomic backbone to their web portals. Species 2000 receives funding from GBIF.
Curiosities of Biological Nomenclature
Scientific names of plants and animals are not known for their entertainment value. Here is a collection of scientific names worthy a second look, such as, La cucaracha, Phthiria relativitae.
Some Important Sites
International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature be sure to scan and use its special features, database sites, and publications
Biological Nomenclature and Taxonomy Data Standard compiled by the Federal Geographic Data Committee to assure compliance with and use of biological and/or geospatial data sets and terminology in the National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI).
International Code of Botanical Nomenclature (Vienna Code, 2006)
International Code of Nomenclature for Algae, Fungi, and Plants (Melbourne Code, 2011)