Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
All officially described species have one, and only one, universally recognized scientific name. The scientific name of all organisms is based in Latin or Greek, consists of at least two parts and often a third, and is italicised when the name occurs in print. For ease of finding names in the text of this book we also put the scientific names in bold print but this is not part of the required protocol for displaying the name. Also, the last name of the author who described the species is sometimes included (not so in this booklet). The first word in a species name refers to the genus and always has the first letter capitalized. The second name, which is not capitalized, is termed the species epithet and in combination with the first name represents the species name, sometimes called the scientific binomen. The same species epithet may be used in a scientific name if the species are in different genera. For instance, the species epithet februalis is used for a species in Egira and in Feralia. Some species have a third name that indicates a subspecies, providing a scientific trinomen. In general we have not applied subspecies status to our species but for an example of how one might address the situation of subspecies status read the notes associated with Stenoporpia pulmonaria. The status of subspecies is applied to species with two or more distinct populations that are geographically separated. Individuals of different subspecies within a species could interbreed and produce fertile offspring, whereas, populations recognized as separate species typically cannot or do not interbreed. For one example as an exception to the noninterbreeding nature of species note the comments associated with Hyalophora euryalus and a closely related species Hyalophora gloveri.
No two animals are allowed to have the same scientific name. However, species will possess a list of scientific names that are not recognized as the current name due to a history of taxonomic revisions and a variety of expert opinions as to the identity of the species across its range. Previously used scientific names that are no longer recognized as the current scientific name are called synonyms. Often species with more than one distinct color form will have many synonyms because the various forms were initially thought to be distinct species. Also, as taxonomists revise the organization of species within generic groups the scientific name may change. For instance, Lafontaine (1998) revised the species of the noctuid genera Setagrotis and Tesagrotis. Prior to his revision the species now recognized as Tesagrotis atrifrons was known as Setagrotis atrifrons. Thus, a search of the literature on this species would need to include both names. Most species have synonyms that are listed in monographs and catalogs. Hodges et al. (1983) lists synonyms of all Lepidoptera in North America.