Evolutionary BiologyTaxonomy II: Nomenclature: Ruling names of giants

by Alfred L. Rosenberger, Ph.D.

Did you know?

Did you know that Tyrannosaurus rex could have been called Manospondylus gigas? The rules of scientific nomenclature usually dictate that when more than one name for a species is discovered has been given, the older one prevails. Luckily, common sense won out in the case of T. Rex, and this most famous dinosaur was allowed to keep the newer name that both scientists and the general public had become familiar with.


Carolus Linnaeus, the “father of taxonomy,” developed a uniform system for naming plants and animals to ensure that each species has a unique name. This module outlines rules of forming two-term taxonomic names according to genus and species. The module gives examples of naming controversies and describes how they were resolved, including by bending the rules in regard to certain famous beasts.

Terms you should know

Key Concepts

  • The system of binomial nomenclature was Linnaeus' response to the need of a clear, distinct naming of species that would be recognized around the world and reduce the chance of one species being known by multiple names.
  • Scientific names are always written in italics, with the genus capitalized and the species lowercase, and should sound as though they are Latin.

Alfred L. Rosenberger, Ph.D. “Taxonomy II: Nomenclature” Visionlearning Vol. BIO-2 (2), 2003.

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