If you could rename an existing species

There is an argument by some biologists that if you label a species as “Common” then it might impact the ability to implement conservation actions for it, if such actions become necessary. Not every “common” species might be as common (widespread and abundant) as the name suggests, or it might no longer be common throughout its range.

Also, it’s not very descriptive of the particular species.


Like how the Common Egret was renamed to the Great Egret. Now we’ll want to protect its habitat. And what does it look like? Well, it looks great.


People who destroy those species are likely to not know their names at all, and if it’s the only species for a big range, why there should be a common name that describes parts of it? If it’s the only pine around, people will just call it pine, and not spiky pine, and if it’s the only otter, it’ll be called just otter, the “common” part is added only to mimic binominal names.

Well, the “common” doesn’t always mimic the scientific name and in some cases might not really be needed. Example, the “common snapping turtle” is now called “North American snapping turtle” by some. The argument was that calling it common disregarded the fact that it was under some pressure from turtle-meat hunters in some areas. Although it is indeed still common in many areas of North America. Plus, the alternative name provides information about where it occurs.

Personally, I’m undecided about the argument for not using “common” in common names.

I meant that it mimics the structure of it, things got “common” part just because scientists use Latin names so much they change common names to fit that pattern. In regular speech people referred (and still do) to such species without “common”, using a single word.

Thank you. If I’m in North America, and my field notes say “robin,” I do not think it is necessary to say “American Robin.” Likewise if they say “crow,” and I am not in a place where the Fish Crow occurs.

I think she meant that it was added to make the “common name” into a binomial, mimicking the pattern of scientific names.


I would rename all the common names of Jumping spiders that don’t make sense, or relate nothing to the actual species, or are just kinda lame. For instance, Phidippus princeps “Grayish Jumping Spider”. deserves better. Like
“Brown Sugar Doughnut Hole Jumper”

Phidippus clarus “Brilliant Jumping Spider” doesn’t look too brilliant to me.
How about “Secret Agent Jumping Spider”

Paraphidippus fartilis Has no common name, so how about
“Powdered Sugar Doughnut Hole Jumper”

Marpissa pikei also has no common name, so how about
“THAT is a Jumping spider?” Because it looks so different, that is the reaction most will have when first seeing one.

Anasaitis canosa “Twin-flagged Jumping Spider” I honestly have no idea what that is supposed to mean. Let’s just call it
“Hot Cocoa Jumping Spider”

Naphrys pulex “Flea Jumping Spider” implies that it is a pest, but not so. It is adorable!
“Slider Jumping Spider” named after “Sliders” which are mini burgers.

Pseudeuophrys erratica “Black-palped Jumping Spider” basically implying that it’s the only jumping spider with black pedipalps. Their pedipalps aren’t even completely black!
“Not completely Black-palped Jumping Spider” is much better.

Beata hispida’s common name will now be
“Strawberry Tart Jumping spider” not because it’s my username, or because it has anything to do with the actual spider, but because I really like strawberry tarts.


I would change species that have a species epitheton that depicts the place of discovery, but have a very wide distrbution.

For example:
Cicada mordoganensis (described from Mordogan, but ocurs in the whole East Aegean area)
Capparis sicula (does not only occur on Siculia = Sicily; occurs from Morrocco to Iran…)

On the other hand, I’m used to these names and don’t want to use something else. It’s like a tradition.

Fun fact: Cotinus cogyggria is called “Perückenstrauch” (=wig-bush) in German, “smoketree” in English and Χρυσόξυλο (Chrysoxylo= golden wood) in Greek. If that’s not just fantasy when it comes to naming…

Like Platycryptus californicus? Implies only found in California, but is actually native through the western United States, and western Canada. It even extends to western Texas!

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I would change the name of Maianthemum racemosum to something else. The flowers on this species are in a panicle, not a raceme, but many other species do have a raceme. M. paniculatum is already taken. The species grows across North America so maybe M. americanum? It would fit in right between M. canadense and M. mexicanum.


Most of the gulls I see in California are Larus delawarensis.


That’s a good example ;)

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You should become an etymologist and rename illogical names. I can help you with Latin stuff if you need (jk ;) )…
But I guess some species epitheta are not that difficult, e.g. communis, vulgaris, mexicanum, canadese, americanum, europaeum…

Whoever learned Latin will agree that sometimes without knowing how the plant/organism looks like or where it comes from you almost know it with the epitheton (e.g. parviflorus - small flowers; tenuifolius - slim leaves; atra - dark or black; europaeus - Europaean; viridissima - very green; hederifolium - leaves look like the ones of ivy …). And there are also Greek epitheta of course.

I think we could open a new topic, ‘etymology of scientific names’. What do you think about it? I’d like to help with explaining some names…


I tell you one that I would not change at all, though: Piranga olivacea – common name, Scarlet Tanager. In this case, olivacea describes the female plumage – and emphasizes that although female birds are often not as splashy or flamboyant as males, they are as valid.


While I haven’t seen it mentioned on this thread yet (though I may have missed it, it’s a long thread), there has been quite a bit of controversy surrounding a previous common name of Lymantria dispar, which contained a term widely considered offensive. The Entomological Society of America has now recognized the name “Spongy Moth” as the new common name for the species, and it has been changed to this here on iNat as well. Just thought I might share in case anyone was interested :)


Haha that is good timing for this thread. I would change that name immediately. I was in favor of Dimorphic Tussock or something descriptive of the adults or the very noticeable larvae. The egg masses are more furry than anything, and I doubt any insect has been named for it’s egg stage. I still hear most people using the old name or Lymantria dispar, and this cheesey name (akin to Cheesey Moth) is not gonna help the change.


Young daughter called rhinoceros “ Battle Unicorn”, and it was very difficult to correct her!

I call Black Eyed Susans Rude Becki Brown Eyes!
The center is brown, not black and the Latin name is Rudbeckia.
And I don’t like thinking my bff has black eyes.


A common name is no more nor less than what people call it. So, presuming you are people, whatever you call it, that is its common name. Well, one of its common names.

If you want to rename it, do! :-)

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Ever since the Southern Painted Turtle was recognized as a separate Chrysemys species rather than a Chrysemys picta subspecies, I’ve been under the belief that it deserves its own species name. Perhaps the Mural Turtle?


sometimes i see them called red headed johns, which is a funky little name! never seen it used in the united states before. most often i see turkey vulture in us/canada/sometimes south, buzzard throughout, john crow in the caribbean, and also red headed jote and red headed urubú. occasionally american red headed vulture, red-headed aura, or common aura. i have no idea how this could be managed lol but it would be very interesting i think to see a map of what names are most popular in different regions!

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