Naming of organisms

Last revised by Dr Daniel J Bell on 12 Oct 2021

Occasionally, we will refer to lifeforms in an article or case, and we adhere to standard scientific convention when it comes to naming organisms, as set down by the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN) 1. As per the standard binomial system, the genus and species of the organism are stated, and both should be italicized. The genus should also be capitalized and if abbreviated, be followed by a full stop (period). The species name is not capitalized:

  • Escherichia coli
  • E. coli

However higher ranks, e.g. orders and families, of species are not italicized, but are capitalized e.g. Wuchereria bancrofti, is from the genus Wuchereria, but from the taxonomic family Onchocercidae.

Occasionally the abbreviation "sp." or "spp." may be used following the genus name, meaning species or species plural respectively. For example, Wuchereria spp. is used to refer to more than one Wuchereria species. The "sp."/"spp." abbreviations are never capitalized or italicized, although the preceding genus name is. A full stop/period is always placed after these abbreviations unless it is used at the end of a sentence and would result in a double full stop/period.

Occasionally, the term subspecies is also needed, which may be abbreviated to subsp. or ssp. (same form for singular or plural). A subspecies name follows the species name and is also italicized.

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