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Why do we use scientific names in GLOBE Mission Mosquito?


If you have used the GLOBE Observer Mosquito Habitat Mapper, you know that the app allows you to identify your larva and apply its scientific name. You may have wondered why we use these names? For instance, Aedes aegypti’s common name is the “Yellow Fever Mosquito”.  Why don’t we just use the common name when we talk about our work in this project?

A unique name, used across many different languages

There are many reasons why scientists use scientific names instead of common names. In the GLOBE Mission Mosquito Campaign, where people all over the world are identifying and reporting the same kind of mosquito, it gives us a shared name so we know we are all reporting the same organism. If we were using the local common name of the yellow fever mosquito, it would be much harder to communicate! Mission Mosquito has citizen scientists of many languages participating, so you would need to be familiar with many different names:

English: yellow fever mosquito
Portuguese: mosquito da febre amarela
Spanish: mosquito fiebre amarillo
French: moustique de la fiève jaune
German: Gelbfiebermücke

Hindi: peela bukhaar achchhar

Dutch: gele koortsmug

Arabic: humaa alsufara’ albueud

Scientific names help us know the relationships between organisms

Another reason why a scientific name is useful is because it assists us in understanding the genetic relationships between organisms. Organisms are identified by their genus and species.  Organisms that are in the same genus are related, but each species is unique. The GO Mosquito Habitat Mapper allows you to identify the larvae of both Aedes albopictus (Asian tiger mosquito) and Aedes aegypti (yellow fever mosquito). Because both mosquitoes are in the same genus, Aedes, you immediately know that these two species are closely related (and  may even look more similar to each other) than mosquitoes from other genera, such as Anopheles or Culex.

Note that the genus is always capitalized, and the species is always lower case. Because it is a scientific name, the convention is to either underline or italicize the name.

Scientific names are descriptive.
Let's take a look at our yellow fever mosquito: 

Aedes (Greek) means distasteful, unpleasant.

aegypti describes that the species was first identified in Egypt.
 
Aedes aegypti means "distasteful and unpleasant mosquito from Egypt" -very descriptive!

 

If you were a taxonomist and had to learn a lot of scientific names in your job, you would find it helpful that the scientific name is descriptive of the organism, if you know a little bit of Latin or Greek:

Aedes= distasteful, unpleasant

albopictus= (Latin) marked with white as if painted or drawn

Take a look an adult Aedes albopictus and see how the name is descriptive of this mosquito! 

Zoom Aedes albopictus (source- Wikipedia).png

https://3.basecamp.com/3503958/blobs/871cecb6-230f-11e9-aa40-a0369f740da4/download/Aedes%20albopictus%20(source-%20Wikipedia).pngAedes albopictus 4.81 MB View full-size Download

 (Source: Wikipedia)

Similarly, Anopheles is derived from a Greek word and means “useless” and Culex is from Latin and means “gnat” or “mosquito"!

Pronouncing scientific names-not hard, just unfamiliar
 Wondering how to pronounce these scientific names for mosquitoes?  Here's a handy pronunciation guide. Note that these terms can be pronounced different ways, here are common suggestions:


 Aedes aegypti: Ah-eh-dees aye-gyp-tee

Aedes albopictus: Ah-eh-dees al-bo-picked-us

Anopheles: ah-NAW-fuh-lees

Culex: KEW-leks

But don’t worry about whether you pronounce these scientific names correctly. If you  hear these names spoken in different English speaking countries as well as different languages, you will hear a lot of variation. But even with this variation, you’ll see that it is usually pretty easy to understand the name spoken by others around the world! The real reason for scientific names is to aid scientists like yourselves in communication with others!  For fun, listen to "Aedes aegypti" spoken by others around the world here:   http://www.pronouncekiwi.com/Aedes%20aegypti

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