The Ants of Africa
CHAPTER 6 - Taxonomy - Latin in Nomenclature
Latin Nomenclature Higher Levels of Classification & Phylogeny Tribes Taxonomic Criteria & Glossary

The use of Latin as the universal language of taxonomy has generally served to minimise confusion in the names applied at all levels of nomenclature. The formation of names, or epithets, however, has few rules; the primary one being that a species name should match the genus name in gender. What may be useful is a brief guide to how some forms of species name have been generated.

When a particular person, often the collector, or someone of distinction, such as another taxonomist, or the sponsor of an expedition, is being commemorated, the species name usually ends in -i, for example Cataulacus boltoni; a variation is when the name of the person ends in -a, then the correct ending is -e, for example Bondroitia lujae, named after E. Luja. Romanticism obviously motivated Forel (1886f) when he named several Camponotus species after Roman heroes, such as brutus, caesar and pompeius, a trend followed by others who later described members of the genus.

When the place of the collection, especially the type location, country or other geographical area is being denoted, the species name may end in -ense, meaning "out of" for example Tetramorium guineense, from Guinea (although the incorrect ending -ensis is common). A non-geographical example is Strumigenys cacaoensis, from cacao or, in its English form, cocoa. Another geographical example uses -us, e.g. Anochetus africanus, meaning "of" or "belonging to" Africa; similarly Crematogaster africana, in this case the -a ending matches the female gender of the genus. In similar vein, is the name Pseudolasius bufonus used for a species first described by Wheeler (1922), and denoting the fact that the specimens were recovered from the stomachs of toads of the genus Bufo.

Particular body characteristics are also used, in this case the species name as a whole, perhaps as an adjective is used, for example Monomorium bicolor, bi (two) - coloured; Polyrhachis decemdentata, decem (ten) - dentis (toothed) - the pronotum has a pair of spines, the propodeum has another pair, and the petiole has six spines); Pheidole megacephala, from the Greek megas (= great or big) - kephalikos (= head), again with gender correctness in the adjectival form; and Calyptomyrmex brevis (being short).

Other adjectives may describe the habits of the species, for example, Pyramica (Serrastruma) inquilina, an inquiline or socially parasitic species; Tetramorium cryptica and Tetramorium furtiva, both species which hide, the first being cryptic (Latin from Greek kruptikos) and the second furtive (Latin furtivus); Polyrhachis militaris and Polyrhachis laboriosa, on the other hand are typical of early taxonomists applying somewhat fanciful descriptions - military and laborious (hard-working).

Latin Nomenclature Higher Levels of Classification & Phylogeny Tribes Taxonomic Criteria & Glossary
1998, 2003, 2012 - Brian Taylor CBiol FSB FRES
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