Animal Profiles A to Z: By Scientific Name

American pika - Ochotona princeps
American pika - Ochotona princeps. Photo © Daisy Gilardini / Getty Images.

We use common names for animals in everyday speech, but scientists have a different method of naming creatures, called "binomial nomenclature" or two-word naming. This scientific naming system avoids confusion when a scientist is speaking to a colleague who speaks another language—or when different animals are given the same name in various regions. For instance, if scientists who speak English, Russian, Spanish, French and Japanese all are talking about a Balaenoptera musculus, they all know they are speaking about the same animal: It's the sea mammal the English speaker knows as the blue whale.

Latin words are used, with the first term identifying the genus to which the animal belongs. (This is the animal's generic name or generic epithet.) The second term identifies the species. (This is the animal's specific name or specific epithet.)

A

Actinopterygii - Ray-finned fishes
Agalychnis callidryas - Red-eyed tree frog
Ailuropoda melanoleuca - Giant panda
Alces americanus - American moose
Amblyrhynchus cristatus - Marine iguana
Amphibia - Amphibians
Animalia - Animals
Anser indicus - Bar-headed goose
Anseriformes - Waterfowl
Antilocapra americana - Pronghorn
Anura - Frogs and toads
Aplysia californica - California sea hare
Archilochus colubris - Ruby-throated hummingbird
Arthropoda - Arthropoods
Artiodactyla - Even-toed ungulates
Aves - Birds

B

Baeolophus bicolor - Tufted titmouse
Balaeniceps rex - Shoebill
Balaenoptera musculus - Blue whale
Batoidea - Skates and rays
Bison bison - American bison
Branta canadensis - Canada goose
Branta sandvicensis - Nene goose
Bufo bufo - European common toad

C

Campephilus principalis - Ivory-billed woodpecker
Canidae - Canids
Canis lupus arctos - Arctic wolf
Caracal caracal - Caracal
Carcharodon carcharias - Great white shark
Caretta caretta - Loggerhead turtle
Carnivora - Carnivores
Castor canadensis - American beaver
Cepphus columba - Pigeon guillemot
Ceratotherium simum - White rhinoceros
Cetacea - Cetaceans
Chelonia - Turtles and tortoises
Chelonia mydas - Green sea turtle
Chiroptera - Bats
Chondrichthyes - Cartilaginous fishes
Chordata - Chordates
Cichlidae - Cichlids
Ciconiiformes - Herons, storks, ibises and spoonbills
Cnidaria - Cnidaria
Conolophus subcristatus - Galapagos land iguana
Crocodilia - Crocodilians
Cyclura cornuta - Rhinoceros iguana

D

Danaus plexippus - Monarch butterfly
Dasypus novemcinctus - Nine-banded armadillo
Daubentonia madagascariensis - Aye-aye
Delphinus delphis - Common dolphin
Dendrobates auratus - Green poison dart frog
Dermochelys coriacea - Leatherback sea turtle
Diceros bicornis - Black rhinoceros
Diomedea exulans - Wandering albatross
Dugong dugong - Dugong

E

Echinodermata - Echinoderms
Elasmobranchii - Sharks, skates and rays
Elephas maximus - Asiatic elephant
Equus asinus somalicus - Somali wild ass
Equus burchellii - Burchell's zebra
Equus caballus przewalskii - Przewalski's wild horse
Eretmochelys imbricata - Hawksbill sea turtle
Erithacus rubecula - European robin
Eschrichtius robustus - Gray whale
Eudocimus ruber - Scarlet ibis

F

Falconiformes - Birds of prey
Felidae - Cats
Fratercula arctica - Atlantic puffin
Fregatidae - Frigatebirds

G

H

Hippopotamus amphibus - Hippopotamus
Homo neanderthalensis - Neandertal
Hyaenidae - Hyenas
Hyperoodon ampullatus - Northern bottlenose whale

I

Insecta - Insects
Isoptera - Termite

L

Lagenorhynchus acutus - Atlantic white-sided dolphin
Lagenorhynchus obscurus - Dusky dolphin
Lagomorpha - Hares, rabbits and pikas
Loxodonta africana - African elephant
Lynx lynx - Eurasian lynx
Lynx rufus - Bobcat

M

Mammalia - Mammals
Marsupialia - Marsupials
Meles meles - European badger
Mephitidae - Skunks and stink badgers
Metazoa - Animals
Microlophus albemarlensis - Lava lizard
Mollusca - Mollusks
Morus bassanus - Northern gannet
Mustela nigripes - Black-footed ferret
Mustelidae - Mustelids
Myrmecophaga tridactyla - Giant anteater

O

Orcaella brevirostris - Irrawaddy dolphin
Orcinus orca - Orca
Octopus vugaris - Octopus

P

Panthera leo - Lion
Panthera onca - Panther
Panthera pardus - Leopard
Panthera pardus orientalis - Amur leopard
Panthera tigris - Tiger
Panthera tigris altaica - Siberian tiger
Panthera uncia - Snow leopard
Pelicaniformes - Pelicans and relatives
Perissodactyla - Odd-toed ungulates
Phascolarctos cinereus - Koala
Phoca vitulina - Common seal
Phoenicopterus ruber - Greater flamingo
Platalea ajaja - Roseate spoonbill
Pongo pygmaeus - Bornean orangutan
Porifera - Sponges
Primates - Primates
Proboscidea - Elephants
Propithecus tattersalli - Golden-crowned sifaka
Pterois volitans - Firefish or lionfish
Pteropus rodricensis - Rodriguez flying fox
Puma concolor - Mountain Lion
Pygoscelis adeliae - Adélie penguin

R

Rangifer tarandus - Caribou
Reptilia - Reptiles
Rhincodon typus - Whale shark
Rodentia - Rodents

S

T

Tamandua tetradactyla - Southern tamandua
Tapiridae - Tapirs
Tinamiformes - Tinamous
Tragelaphus oryx - Eland antelope
Tremarctos ornatus - Spectacled bear
Trichechus - Manatees
Trochilidae - Hummingbirds
Tursiops truncatus - Bottlenose dolphin
Tytonidae - Barn owls

U

V

Varanus komodoensis - Komodo dragon
Vulpes vulpes - Red fox

X