In my world, new wildlife and creatures have emerged due to the presence of radiation, genetic engineering, and have lead to new mutants and dangerous beasts stalking the Wastelands.

A scientist in my world, a man named Paul Aaronson, has been classifying and profiling said creatures (ie I'm writing in-universe lore about them) and has been giving each creature a scientific bionomial nomenclature. "Radrats"- giant brown rodents- are called "Rattus Radialem". The various giant insects are called "Linepithema Gigas" and "Centruroides Gigas" respectively- All good right? Well, while doing this, I found a problem.

There is a creature in my world called a Trihorner. These were specifically created by the government, using DNA from numerous animals, like Komodo Dragons, Jackson's Chameleons, Iguanas, and Alligators. My question is, how would you assign this creature any binomial nomeclature, seeing as how they're derived from multiple creatures. Is there any procedure for this? Please let me know.

Also, I know my Latin is terrible, very terrible, as it mainly relies on google translate. So if any of you speak it, point out any mistakes you see.

  • $\begingroup$ Rattus radialem, no, no way. (Radialem looks like the accusative singular from a supposed adjective *radialis, which might mean "radial" or something like that; it must be the nominative singular. Scientific names strive to conform to Latin morphology, even when they are not actual Latin phrases.) Maybe Rattus radiatilis? (It would mean a "rat which emits rays".) Or maybe R. radiomutatus, don't know. (And look how scientific names are written; they are set in italics, the genus name gets an uppercase initial, and the specific attribute is all lowercase.) $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Oct 16, 2020 at 23:46
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ There is a well-established convention for hybrids and such. In the specific case of the question, your trihorner would be assigned a nothogenus (= spurious, fake, not natural genus), and its name would look like × Tricorniger chimericus, that is starting with a cross sign to indicate a nothogenus. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Oct 16, 2020 at 23:56
  • $\begingroup$ @alexp that could be elaborated into an answer, you'd have my upvote. $\endgroup$ Oct 17, 2020 at 0:29
  • $\begingroup$ If your new hybrid is fully viable, then just assign it a newly invented genus and species distinct from any of its contributors. Taxonomy doesn’t need to match genealogy. $\endgroup$
    – StephenS
    Oct 17, 2020 at 2:45
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexP: Elaborate that into an answer so that I can choose it $\endgroup$
    – DT Cooper
    Oct 17, 2020 at 17:39

2 Answers 2


The post-apocalyptic biologist who is looking for options for naming the trihorner, an animal which has a genome derived by artificial means from several parent species, will start from the very obvious observation that it belongs to a new genus, as it is visibly not a Komodo dragon, nor a Jackson's chameleons, nor an iguana, and not an alligator.

Now, for naming the new genus, he has to decide whether he wants to indicate that the animal has a combined genome.

  1. He can choose to name the new genus without any indication that it is genetically derived from multiple parent species. This is extremely common in Botany, so this option will come as natural to Herr Professor Doktor Aaronson if he comes from a Botany background.

    (Plants are aliens. There are countless genera and species of plants with genomes combining two, three or four parent species. For a very familiar example, consider that common wheat, Triticum aestivum, is an allohexaploid, combining the genomes of three different parent species: an unidentified close relative of the goatgrass Aegilops speltoides, the rough-spike hard grass Aegilops tauschii, and the red wild einkorn wheat Triticum urartu.)

    Because plants readily for hybrid species (with hybridization between species, between genera and even between different families), botanists don't indicate allopolyploidy unless the event is recent or artificial.

  2. When they (rather rarely) choose to indicate that a taxon is a hybrid, botanists use the a well-established convention.

    Generally, a hybrid species is indicated by a cross sign, ×:

    • If the hybrid comes from two species in the same genus, the cross sign goes between the generic name and the specific attribute; for example, the name Magnolia × soulangeana indicates that the species soulangeana of magnolias is a hybrid of two other Magnolia species.

    • In the specific case of the question, when the parent species belong to different genera, the cross goes befor the name of the genus; your trihorner would be assigned a nothogenus (= hybrid, spurious, fake, not natural genus), and its name would look like × Tricorniger chimericus, that is, starting with a cross sign to indicate a nothogenus.

    Sometimes, but far from always, botanists use a special mechanism for forming the names of nothogenera:

    • If the nothogenus has two parent genera, and if the names of the parents permits it, the name of the nothogenus is formed by fusing the two names, not necessarily complete. For example, the (notho-)genus × Agropogon would be a hybrid between the bentgrass Agrostis and the widely dispersed Polypogon.

    • If the nothogenus has more than two parent genera, a new name is invented ending in -ara, often based on the name of the person who created the hybrid genus.

    In any case, the cross sign doesn't count for any "official" purpose, and it is frequently omitted.

Animals form hybrid species very much more rarely than plants, but the same centuries-old convention would apply, and with the same caveat that their hybrid descent it would not necessarily be indicated in the name. (The few animal species which I know to be hybrids, such as the American red wolf Canis rufus (a hybrid between the gray wolf Canis lupus and the coyote Canis latrans), or the beautiful manakin Lepidothrix vilasboasi, do not have names indicating anything special about their descent.)

A note about scientific names:

  • Scientific names of species are explicitly not Latin, but they must obey the rules of Latin morphology and syntax. They must be in the nominative singular, and must agree in grammatical gender; for example, the common beech tree is Fagus sylvatica, because the word fagus ("beech") has feminine grammatical gender. This is a hard rule, and is grounds for changing a name when it is found that the original name giver was a poor classicist; for example, the rock ptarmigan Lagopus muta (meaning "mute rabbit-foot") used to be called **Lagopus mutus, but the name was changed when somebody realized that the Greek compound word lagopus (rabbit-foot) has to be feminine.

    Which means that **Rattus radialem is an impossible name, because radialem is in the accusative case; the correct form would be Rattus radialis. However, if I may be so bold, R. radialis means "radial rat" (as in, moving or extending along a radius), which is probably not what's intended; it may suggest R. radiatilis ("rat which emits rays") or maybe R. radiomutatus.

  • Scientific names of species are set in italics; the genus name gets an initial capital, and the specific attribute is all lowercase. This holds even if the specific attribute is derived from the name of a person; for example, the name of Albert's lyrebird is Menura alberti, although that specific Albert is question was Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, the husband of Queen Victoria.

    So that it would be Linepithema gigas, not Linepithema Gigas.

  • It is common to abbreviate the genus name to its first letter when it is used several times in a row; as I have done in the paragraph about rats above.

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the help and the Latin lesson $\endgroup$
    – DT Cooper
    Oct 17, 2020 at 21:18

Taxonomy has little to do with genetics. Rattus, for example, was named by Linneaus, a full century before Mendel started poking around with peas.

While in modern taxonomy, genetics are often used to determine species' relation, taxonomy is strictly a "does everyone agree on this name" game. If there's no one objecting, Paul can introduce a brand new clade, in faux-Latin, Tricornis. If it shares phenotypical characteristics with an existing family, he could shoehorn it in there, too.

There's no one around to gainsay him, after all.

  • $\begingroup$ Tricornibus = dative or ablative plural from tricornis; meaning "to the three-horned", or "with the three-horned". Scientific names are in the nominative singular. You want Tricornis or maybe Tricorniger. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Oct 16, 2020 at 23:57
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexP - I mean, there's no reason this Wasteland scientist would necessarily be up on his Latin either, but I like the idea. :) $\endgroup$
    – jdunlop
    Oct 17, 2020 at 0:24
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexP: Tricornibus/Tricornis what? What could be the second part $\endgroup$
    – DT Cooper
    Oct 17, 2020 at 17:38
  • $\begingroup$ @DTCooper: Tricornis allopelorius, T. odontotyrannus, T. neosuchus, T. crocodyloides etc. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Oct 17, 2020 at 19:13

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