Video: What's in a Name?

Species names are important, and much like the species they refer to, names often change over time, too.  Taxonomists have been struggling to keep track of them all since the origins of natural history.  Binomial nomenclature, the standardized way in which scientists name species, was a major breakthrough.

That breakthrough is about 250 years old now, though, and it's a tall order to keep track of 250-years' worth of new names, new species, and information about those species.  Dr. Ellinor Michel from the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature visited the Field Museum in November 2012 to discuss ZooBank, a new online archive of zoological species names.  

The Field Museum is making similar efforts to provide worldwide access to its own online archives of the collections.  Their new site will be online soon, and in the meantime, you can search the Field Museum's collections here.  (The tiny rove beetle species featured in the video is Omaliopsis ectopia.  Margaret Thayer named the holotype which is part of the Museum's Coleoptera Collection.)  Our holdings are also available from our IPT (Integrated Publishing Toolkit) server and from the GBIF (Global Biodiversity Informatics Facility) data portal.

For a glimpse of nomenclature history, take a closer look at Systema Naturae, the work in which Carl Linnaeus really delved into classification using binomial nomenclature.  (And keep an eye out for Animalia Paradoxa if you're wondering what the X-Files were like 250 years ago...)