Questions for ‘What biologists call a species is becoming more than just a name’

a honeybee on a purple flower

Western honey bees originally had a lengthy name describing their appearance. In Systema Naturae, naturalist Carl Linnaeus shortened the name to Apis mellifera, which means “honey-bearing bee.”

Jim, the Photographer (CC BY 2.0)

To accompany feature “What biologists call a species is becoming more than just a name


Before Reading:

1. What are some scientific names for animals and plants? What is the language used in these scientific names?

2. Who assigns an official scientific name to an organism? What would a scientist need to consider when naming a newly discovered organism?

During Reading:

1.  What is taxonomy? Why is giving an organism an official scientific name important? List possible reasons.

2.  Who created the first system for giving organisms scientific names? What is that system called?

3.  What is the special meaning in the order of the two words in a scientific name — for instance in Apis mellifera?

4.  Name the seven nested ranks in the current system for naming and grouping biological organisms.

5.  Living things have long been categorized based on their physical traits. How do some modern scientists want to change that system?

6.  What do scientists mean when they talk about “the tree of life”?

7.  What rank is at the top of the taxonomic system? Name the five Kingdoms commonly recognized today.

8.  Why do some scientists think a new rank called “supergroup” needs to be added to the taxonomic system?

9.  What is the name of the new taxonomic system that some scientists are proposing? On what concept is the new system based?

10.  Today, species on our planet are going extinct at an alarming rate. Why does the story argue that this makes having a strong taxonomic system in place important?

After Reading:

1.  Why can naming an organism based on its appearance be a problem?

2.  What challenges might be created by switching to an entirely new taxonomic system?