Friday, April 25, 2014





Fish Names

Common Name

The Common Name is the general name that a fish is known by in an area. It can be in any language and the same fish can have many different names. In a country like South Africa, there could be an English common name, an Afrikaans common name and other common names in the language of any of the thirteen official languages. A fish can even have several common names in the same language in one area. One common fish found in South Africa is called a Shad in Natal and an Elf in the Cape. In other parts of the world this same fish has other English names such as Bluefish, Tailor, Choppers, Jumbos, Skipjack and Ancho. There are also many other names for the same fish in other languages. In this database the Black Marlin has more than 60 different common names and there will be many more that have not been included.

From the above it is obvious that it is impossible to use the common name when working with fish all over the world. This situation is even worse when it is realized that the same common name can be used to cover a large number of entirely different fish. The common name butterfish is used for 12 different fish and when you order butterfish in a restaurant you have no idea what fish you are actually being served.  

Original Name

The Original Name is the Scientific Name that was given to a species when it was originally described as a new species. The timing is extremely important and under dispute even minutes can determine which name is the Original Name and which author gets the credit. Original Names are extremely important and are used as the reference point when any major investigation or review is carried out.  In FishWise a design requirement is that all names used are either Original Names or are names which are linked to an Original Name. All genus species name combinations in this data base meet this requirement. 

Scientific Name

The simple Scientific Name is called a binomen. It is made up of two parts, the Genus and the Species and will typically have the form “Pomacanthus imperator”. Conventionally the binomen is italicized, the first character of Genus is capitalized and the balance of the name is in lower case. The Scientific Name is often incorrectly referred to as the Latin Name. It is in fact made up from names that are then Latinized. Many of the names come from Latin or Greek but can also come from other languages. The final name must follow the rules of Latin, for instance the Genus will have a gender and the Species should have the same gender. The ending of the Species name would then generally indicate the gender so that ‘us’, ‘a’ and ‘um’ as endings would indicate masculine, feminine and neuter unless the original author or revisor indicate or imply that this is not the case. There are many rules and conventions that apply to the scientific naming of a fish as well as many exceptions. Nomenclatural decisions are made on the basis of the articles of the “International Code of Zoological Nomenclature” (ICZN). The object of the code is to promote stability and universality in the scientific names of animals (including fish) and to ensure that the name of each taxon is unique and distinct. It is interesting to note that although adherence to the code is voluntary, virtually all systematists follow the Code and this is one of the few areas of total world cooperation.

Currently Accepted Name

The Currently Accepted Name is not well defined. It is the Scientific Name that is generally used by the experts in the field. These names are found in books, scientific publications, reviews of families and genera.  The currently accepted name is obtained by comparing the different name combinations used for that species. Once you have determined when the name was used and by whom it was used it is normally fairly simple to select the Currently Accepted Name. There is not always consensus when one of the names is chosen but over time as more research and investigation is done and more papers are written, a name combination will emerge that is accepted as the currently accepted name.

Laboratory of Ichthyology  Swedish Museum of Natural History   California Academy of Sciences   Fishbase      Census of Marine Life      Fisheries Center - Aquatic Ecosystems Research Laboratory    World Fish Centre
       Leibniz-Institute of Marine Sciences at Kiel University      Chinese Academy of Fishery Sciences   The Future Ocean