Someone really messed up these scientific names of animals

Tweets about the scientific names of animals overlaid on a picture of a chinchilla.

Many moons ago, scientists had a conundrum on their hands. How do we ensure every scientist on earth, no matter what language they speak, can identify the same animals consistently?

The living organisms classification system was created to solve the issue. Every living organism is classified by a kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus and species name in that order. That’s how you get the scientific names for animals, written in Latin for ease of use around the world.

You’re no doubt familiar with at least a few of the more common scientific names for animals. Panthera tigris, for example, is a tiger’s formal identifier. You might already know that cows go by Bos taurus when they’re feeling fancy. And Whiskers, your family cat? He’s Felis catus to scientists.

These ‘species names’ actually consist of both the genus and species name to come up with a unique identifier for every species, hence the double-barrelled names given to these critters. But there’s one flaw with this system. Sometimes a species can have the same genus as its species name…

People have recently taken to Twitter to nominate their favourite animals with less than favourable Latin names, and some of them are pretty funny.


The tweet that started it all. User @john_p_rafferty says:

Hey #sciencetwitter – off the top of your head, name your favorite species whose genus & species names are the same?  


Vulpes vulpes – red fox. 

Alces alces – moose. 

Gulo gulo – wolverine. 



The scientific name for this cute and cuddly animal is Chinchilla chinchilla. Or, as it’s better known in plain English… uh, chinchilla.


This seabream definitely looks boopable to us.


That’s a video that we did not need to see.


Scientists: lazy, or comedic geniuses? You decide.


So, we just checked. ‘Manx shearwater’ is A) Not the title character of a spy blockbuster coming out this month, and B) looks like this…

… and not like this?

Our thoughts exactly.

This one doesn’t quite fit the bill, but it’s a bonus for the budding biologists. A beautiful flower with a… dear god, terrible name.

So, the next time you complain about what your parents decided to name you, count your lucky stars you weren’t named by a scientist! Which one is your favourite?

Eliza Brockwell

Author: Eliza Brockwell

Eliza is passionate about creating content that encourages diversity of representation in STEM.



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