Species::genus    Genera::nowrap    Names::generic    First::biology    Kingdom::lupus    Title::small

Use Unknown extension tag "imagemap" The scientific name of a genus may be called the generic name or generic epithet: it is always capitalized. It plays a pivotal role in binomial nomenclature, the system of naming organisms.

Binomial nomenclature

{{#invoke:main|main}} The rules for the scientific names of organisms are laid down in the Nomenclature Codes, which are employed by the speakers of all languages, giving each species a single unique Latinate name. The standard way of scientifically describing species and other lower-ranked taxa is by binomial nomenclature. The generic name forms its first half. For example, the gray wolf's binomial name is Canis lupus{{#invoke:Category handler|main}}, with Canis (Lat. "dog") being the generic name shared by the wolf's close relatives and lupus (Lat. "wolf") being the specific name particular to the wolf. The specific name is written in lower-case and may be followed by subspecies names in zoology or a variety of infraspecific names in botany. Especially with these longer names, when the generic name is known from context, it is typically shortened to its initial letter.

Because animals are typically only grouped within subspecies, it is simply written as a trinomen with a third name. For example, because dogs are still so similar to wolves as to form part of their species but so distinct as to require separate treatment, they are described as C. lupus familiaris{{#invoke:Category handler|main}} (Lat. "domestic"), while the "wolves" form many distinct subspecies, including the common wolf (C. lupus lupus{{#invoke:Category handler|main}}) and the dingo (C. lupus dingo{{#invoke:Category handler|main}}). Dog breeds, meanwhile, are not scientifically distinguished.

There are several divisions of plant species and therefore their infraspecific names generally include contractions explaining the relation. For example, the genus Hibiscus{{#invoke:Category handler|main}} (Lat. "marshmallow") includes hundreds of other species apart from the Rose of Sharon or common garden hibiscus (H. syriacus{{#invoke:Category handler|main}}, from Lat. "Syrian"). Rose of Sharon doesn't have subspecies but has cultivars that carry desired traits, such as the bright white H. syriaca 'Diana'.<ref>{{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=citation }}.</ref> "Hawaiian hibiscus", meanwhile, includes several separate species. Since not all botanists agree on the divisions or names between species, it is common to specify the source of the name using author abbreviations. For example, H. arnottianus{{#invoke:Category handler|main}} A.Gray was first specified in a work by Asa Gray.<ref>{{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=citation }}.</ref> Sister Roe identified an immaculate white hibiscus on Molokai as a separate species,<ref>{{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=citation }}.</ref> but D.M. Bates later reclassified it as a subspecies of H. arnottianus{{#invoke:Category handler|main}}.<ref>{{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=citation }}.</ref> It thus now appears as H. arnottianus{{#invoke:Category handler|main}} ssp. immaculatus{{#invoke:Category handler|main}} or as H. arnottianus{{#invoke:Category handler|main}} A.Gray subsp. immaculatus{{#invoke:Category handler|main}} (M.J.Roe) D.M.Bates. When it is considered a mere variety of H. arnottianus{{#invoke:Category handler|main}}, it is written H. arnottianus{{#invoke:Category handler|main}} var. immaculatus{{#invoke:Category handler|main}}.


Each genus should have a designated type, although in practice there is a backlog of older names without one. In zoology, this is the type species and the generic name is permanently associated with the type specimen of its type species. Should the specimen turn out to be assignable to another genus, the generic name linked to it becomes a junior synonym and the remaining taxa in the former genus need to be reassessed.

Identical names

Within the same kingdom one generic name can apply to only one genus. This is why the platypus belongs to the genus Ornithorhynchus: although George Shaw named it Platypus in 1799, that name had already been given to a group of ambrosia beetles by Johann Friedrich Wilhelm Herbst in 1793. Since beetles and platypuses are both members of the kingdom Animalia, the name could not be used for both. Johann Friedrich Blumenbach published the replacement name Ornithorhynchus in 1800.

However, a genus in one kingdom is allowed to bear a scientific name that is in use as a generic name (or the name of a taxon in another rank) in a kingdom that is governed by a different nomenclature code. Names with the same form but applying to different taxa are called "homonyms". Although this is discouraged by both the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature and the International Code of Nomenclature for Algae, Fungi, and Plants, there are some five thousand such names in use in more than one kingdom. For instance, Anura is the name of the order of frogs but also is the name of a non-current genus of plants; Aotus is the generic name of both golden peas and night monkeys; Oenanthe is the generic name of both wheatears and water dropworts; Prunella is the generic name of both accentors and self-heal; and Proboscidea is the order of elephants and the genus of devil's claws.

Higher classifications

The type genus forms the base for higher taxonomic ranks, such as the family name Canidae{{#invoke:Category handler|main}} ("Canids") based on Canis. However, this does not typically ascend more than one or two levels: the order to which dogs and wolves belong is Carnivora{{#invoke:Category handler|main}} ("Carnivores").

Genus sections
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