Describing new species: a tale of two shrimps
What’s in a name?The formal description of a new species also involves giving it its scientific name. As Verity explained in Step 3.5, the scientific name of an animal has two parts: the genus name, and the species name. A genus is a group of closely related species that share similar features. So if a new species belongs to an already known genus, then it takes that genus name. But it still needs a new species name.So how do we choose a new species name? Species names are derived from Latin and Greek, and traditionally describe a key feature of the species. For example, the scientific name of the spiny cockle, which we find around some southwest UK shores, is Acanthocardia aculeata. The genus name, “Acanthocardia”, derives from a Greek word for “spine” (the “Acantho-“ part) because the shell is spiny, and from the Greek word for “heart” (the “-cardia” part) because the two halves of the shell form a shape like a heart. The species name, “aculeata”, comes from the Latin word for “sting”, because the spines on the shell are sharply pointed. Victorian and earlier naturalists, who named many of the common species found in shallow water, were educated in Latin and Greek and simply described what they saw to name species.You can also use a species name to indicate the geographical location where the species is found: for example Vulcanolepas scotiaensis is a new species of stalked barnacle recently found at deep-sea vents in the Scotia Sea of the Antarctic.
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Exploring Our Ocean
A tale of two shrimpsAt the Von Damm Vent Field in the Cayman Trough, which you explored during Week 1, there are two new species of shrimps that Verity has analysed and now formally described (links to the original science papers are provided at the bottom of this page). As examples of how new species are described, follow the links below to read their formal descriptions, which include drawings of morphological features and “genetic family trees”. Can you also find out why these new shrimps were given the species names “hybisae” and “virentova”?
Exploring Our Ocean
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