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What’s In A Name?


Sat, Jan 13th, 2001
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Monday, January 8, 2001

While it may not have mattered much to Romeo’s Juliet, names are of paramount importance to those working in the biological sciences. Naturally, in the absence of names a discussion on virtually any topic would prove at best chaotic if not downright impossible. This is especially true of both animals and plants, whose true identity must somehow be accurately communicated to others with an interest in these species.

Problem is, zoology and botany are both global sciences, with those working in these fields coming from many different countries and ethnic backgrounds. This in turn means that individual zoologists and botanists may be fluent in only one of the world’s many languages. At the same time, however, zoologists and botanists worldwide have a need to know of other papers, books and reports relevant to their research regardless of the language of these publications.

Obviously, some "universally" understood method of naming animals and plants is vital if such an exchange of information is to be achieved. Biologists have accomplished this goal by utilizing a system of binomial nomenclature (literally "two names") first developed by Karl von Linné, a Swede, back in 1737. In this classification system each individual animal and plant is assigned a combination of two separate names that together serve, in theory at least, to uniquely identify the species. Thus mankind, an animal we all should be familiar with, is known to science as Homo sapiens.

The first of these two names is known as the "Genus," which basically translates as "group" or "general type." In other words, the genus or generic name may be applied to more than one species but each of these species will be closely related to one another. Returning again to the previously used example of humans, the genus Homo not only includes modern man but now extinct forms such as Java Man, Homo erectus, and Neanderthal Man, Homo neanderthalensis, as well.

As can be seen in the above examples, it is the second name in combination with the first that firmly establishes the identity of each species. While Homo encompasses all living and extinct species of humans, Homo sapiens applies to modern man alone. The second name cannot properly be called "specific," however, as that term must be reserved for the entire binomial, so it is instead known as the trivial name to scientists.

In order for this system of naming organisms to function prope .....
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Escape from America

Sat, Jan 13th, 2001
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Monday, December 11, 2000

I guess I’m a snowbird at heart because every year about this time, once the temperature dips below zero and looks like it’s going to stay there awhile, I start yearning to go south. Way south. All the way down to Ecu ..... 
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Rural Free Delivery

Sat, Jan 13th, 2001
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Monday, January 15, 2001

When it is seventeen minutes past noon, it is time for us to get the mail. Most of the time we can set our clocks by our mail delivery person who is very punctual. I once commented to him regarding his remarkable punct ..... 
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Morning meditations

Sat, Jan 13th, 2001
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Monday, December 25, 2000

The windmill stands tall in the farm yard, the remnants of last year’s morning glories still clinging to its iron works

The windmill is the first thing I see when I leave the house in the morning. On some mor ..... 
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Sat, Jan 13th, 2001
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Sat, Jan 13th, 2001
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Sat, Jan 13th, 2001
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Sat, Jan 13th, 2001
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Monday, January 15, 2001

Sat, Jan 13th, 2001
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Editor’s note: Charlene Oates of Lime Springs wrote the following essay about her mother, Leila Tienter of Spring Valley. Leila’s children thought the Journal’s readers might enjoy the sentiments conveyed in the story.

Mom’ ..... 
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