Wikipedia:Manual of Style/Organisms

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This guideline describes Wikipedia's stylistic conventions relating to animals (fauna), plants (flora), and other organisms (such as protists). Instructions with regard to animals usually also apply to protozoa, and those with regard to plants usually also apply to fungi, algae, and cyanobacteria. If in doubt about the applicability of anything given (or not given) in this guideline, consult encyclopedic works on the topic or scholarly literature.[1] If still in doubt, use the style that seems most correct by general rules rather than attempt to apply a questionable interpretation of narrow ones.

The instructions below closely follow the conventions expounded in the relevant academic literature. They do so to the letter when this is practical, but explicitly abandon this goal when it causes problems, such as between two such conventions that can apply in the same article or, more importantly, between such a convention and Wikipedia's mission as a freely available encyclopedia. Like all of Wikipedia:Manual of Style, this is a set of internal house style guidelines about how to consistently write biological prose in Wikipedia, which is not an academic specialist journal, a field guide, or a biological nomenclature code, and does not try to emulate every stylistic preference of such publications.

Due to the complexity of the material, this is by necessity one of the most complex and technical of the Manual of Style's pages,[a] and it is intended principally for academics and researchers. Non-specialists should feel free to copy the usage in reliable sources verbatim, and let others with more professional experience with taxonomy make any needed adjustments, e.g. because the naming conventions may have shifted since the source was written.

"[T]ypography is a matter of editorial style and tradition not of nomenclature."

– "Preface", The International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants (ICN), 2011

Scientific names[edit]

Scientific names in the taxonomy of organisms are formatted on Wikipedia according to standardized taxonomic nomenclature, inasmuch as the different taxonomic codes do not conflict in problematic ways. These are set forth in the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN) for animals and animal-like protists; the International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants (ICN), which also covers cyanobacteria; the International Code of Nomenclature of Prokaryotes (ICNP), for all other kinds of bacteria and other prokaryotes; and the code of the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses (ICTV code) for viruses.

Only add scientific names in contexts (e.g. biological) where they are likely to be helpful, not distracting to readers. Avoid pedantic insertions, as in flavored with thyme (Thymus vulgaris)), or bitten by her cat (Felis silvestris catus). Use common sense; genetically identified herb or cat species might actually be relevant, e.g. in an archaeological context, or when distinguishing unlike things with confusingly similar names.

The names of taxa at taxonomic ranks above genus (or the rarely used supergenus)  – family, order, etc. – are always capitalized and are not italicized for animals, plants or bacteria (i.e., everything but viruses): bats belong to the order Chiroptera; rats and mice are members of the family Muridae and the order Rodentia; the house mouse (Mus musculus) and the Macedonian mouse (Mus macedonicus) are both in the genus Mus.

For viruses, the recent formal convention is to italicize and capitalize the order and everything below it, including capitalizing the first letter of the species name (but not of subsequent words in the species name). This italicization convention should only be used for virus infoboxes and otherwise within virology articles; it is not common outside this context even in academic journals, and should not be used in other categories of articles, as its double inconsistency will be confusing to readers and to non-specialist editors. The Manual of Style advises us, across all style issues, to be consistent within an article and to write for broad not narrow understanding. When editing an article that mixes viral and other topics, use the italicization and capitalization conventions of the non-viral topic, as this increases site-wide consistency and is less jarring for readers (e.g., in an article on cattle health, use the ICZN not ICTV style). Examples: In a virology article, use within Herpesviridae, genus Cytomegalovirus belongs to the Betaherpesvirinae subfamily, but otherwise use within Herpesviridae, genus Cytomegalovirus belongs to the Betaherpesvirinae subfamily.

Virus species names are often abbreviated, e.g. HIV, HHV-5, etc.; these short forms are not italicized and do not use periods (full points) between the acronym letters. Unlike in other fields, non-abbreviated genus and species epithets in virology can even be multi-word, and overlapping (redundantly worded): Influenza A virus is a species in the genus Influenzavirus A.

Neither capitalize nor italicize the plain-English form of the name of a taxon, which is usually derived from the scientific name: members of the order Chiroptera are chiropterans; members of the family Muridae are murids, members of the family Orchidaceae are orchids, and members of the genus Cytomegalovirus are cytomegaloviruses.

When the common name and part of the scientific name of an organism coincide, do not italicize, and do not capitalize (unless a proper name occurs), except in the context of taxonomy. Examples: The genus Asparagus provides not only the common vegetable asparagus (or garden asparagus), but a number of common ornamental plants including Asparagus plumosus (climbing asparagus) ...; and: The caracal (Caracal caracal) is also known misleadingly as the "desert lynx", but is not closely related to genus Lynx.

The words for taxonomic ranks are never capitalized. Use the animal kingdom and genus Rosa, not the animal Kingdom or Genus Rosa. These taxonomic rank designations are also never italicized, even inside a scientific name: Equus subgenus Hippotigris, or Saxifraga aizoon var. aizoon. The horticultural designation of cultivar group is written in a scientific name as the capitalized symbol "Group" (or "Gp") when it follows a group name: Mishmiense Group. In running text, use the descriptive term "cultivar group" for clarity, not ICNCP's styled symbols, e.g. some members of the cultivar group were reclassified, since the construction "some members of the group were reclassified" is both too ambiguous for our audience and prone to get hypercorrected to use "Group" (a style for use in a name, not in running English). While some sources do use members of the Group were reclassified, this is too confusing to too many readers on Wikipedia, and leads to additional over-capitalization. The confused mish-mash "cultivar Group" is wrong regardless of context. (See § General, vague, or indeterminate groupings for use of "group" and "Group" in the context of animal breeds.)

Avoid Latin versions of words for taxonomic ranks that differ from the English equivalents, as in the animal regnum or ordo Strigiformes; they will not be understood by many readers who are neither biologists nor Latin students. In botany, there can be up to five taxonomic ranks below the rank of species, all conventionally named in Latin: "subspecies" (which is spelled the same in English), "varietas", "subvarietas", "forma", and "subforma". There is also an uncommon one immediately above species and below sub-genus, "sectio". In practice, these are usually abbreviated (and never italicized) in names; see next item. Outside of a name, these are often translated into English, and this practice is usually used on Wikipedia: "variety", "subvariety", "form", "subform" (and "section"): The public garden features many well-labeled varieties and forms of flowering plants. More obscure botanical classifications, like forma specialis, are not translated.

When used at all in running English, the unabbreviated Latin forms of all such terms are italicized as non-English (It was reclassified as a subvarietas); preferably use the template {{lang-la}} for this. An exception is "subspecies", which has been assimilated into English along with "genus" and "species".

It is conventional to abbreviate taxonomic ranks when used as connecting terms in a scientific name or a classification (and the difference between the two is important in botany).[b] Subspecific botanical ranks (and sectio) are conventionally abbreviated in names as: subsp., var., subvar., f., and subf. (plus sect.). The trailing "." is required in these, but not in some other interpolated symbols, such as Gp and ×; they are all covered in detail below. Connecting terms are never italicized in a name. Examples: Saxifraga aizoon var. aizoon subvar. brevifolia, and Equus quagga ssp. Other such terms receive the same treatment, such as forma specialis: Puccinia graminis f. sp. avenae. The first occurrence in a page should be wikilinked to the article on that taxonomic rank or term:[c] Saxifraga aizoon var. aizoon Be aware that standard abbreviations may differ by field, e.g. "subspecies" is "ssp." (when used at all) in zoology, but "subsp." in bacteriology and botany. It is required in a name by convention in botany but not zoology (so Wikipedia does not use it for the latter except in quoted material).[d] Some connecting terms are obsolete, e.g. "cv." for a cultivar, and should thus be avoided except in quotations (and should be linked to the taxonomic rank article).

These symbols should not be used in general prose (a jargonistic style and over-use of abbreviation, often not understood by readers who are not biologists), as in researchers have identified 22 ssp. in the genus,[d] or a wild boar (Sus scrofa) × domestic pig (Sus scrofa domesticus) hybrid, only in scientific names and classifications. Thus: identified 22 subspecies in the genus; a hybrid of the wild boar (Sus scrofa) and the domestic pig (Sus scrofa domesticus). See also WP:Manual of Style/Dates and numbers on mid-sentence misusage of scientific symbols more generally. Conversely, symbols should never be replaced in a name by the English equivalents, such as "subspecies", "hybrid", or "variety".


The entire binomial or trinomial scientific name (epithet), whether given in full or abbreviated, is always italicized, not including interpolations, such as connecting terms and infrasubspecfics, as detailed below: Liriodendron tulipifera, and N. v. piaropicola. You can use the non-breaking space character code  in these constructions, to prevent awkward line-wrapping: ''N. v. piaropicola''

In particular:

  • A genus (or genus group) is always italicized and capitalized, even when not paired with a species or subspecies name, and whether given in full or abbreviated: Allosaurus, Falco, Anas, and the "E." in E. coli. Supergenus and subgenus, when applicable, are treated the same way. A genus section is only capitalized.
  • Any lower (infrageneric) taxa are italicized, i.e. species and (when applicable) subspecies and other formal infraspecific names. They are never capitalized, even where based on a proper name (except for viruses). Examples: the tulip tree is Liriodendron chinense; all modern humans are Homo sapiens; the peninsula newt is Notophthalmus viridescens piaropicola. Except in viruses, a species (or subspecies) name is always preceded by the genus name, or a capitalized abbreviation of it when the meaning of the abbreviation is clear in context. Viruses are so narrowly named at the species level (e.g. Human herpesvirus-5) that including the genus would usually be superfluous, and they are capitalized like a genus. The word "virus" at the end of a viral species or genus name is not capitalized.
  • Higher taxa (family, order, etc.) are capitalized but not italicized. Italicizing them is not permissible in most nomenclature codes.[e] (But see above regarding viruses in a virology context.)
  • Interpolations that are not names but terms or symbols, such as "cf.", "var.", "×", "+", and the parentheses (round brackets) around interpolated names (covered in the next entry), are not italicized: Ninox cf. novaeseelandiae; the chaussie is a hybrid cat (Felis catus × F. chaus); Potentilla (Sibbaldiopsistridentata; the orange (Citrus ×Sinensis) is a hybrid with its own independent name. In trinomials (three-part or ternary combinations), the interpolation "subsp." is conventionally only used for plants and bacteria: Eschscholzia californica subsp. mexicana and Bacillus cereus subsp. mycoides, versus Equus quagga borensis, a zebra subspecies.
  • An interpolated name is italicized and placed in non-italic parentheses (round brackets); some examples are after a genus name to indicate a subgenus, after a genus group to denote an aggregate of species, after a species name to mean an aggregate of subspecies, after a genus and the word "section" or "sect." to provide a botanical genus section name, e.g. Podosphaera (sect. Sphaerotheca) xanthii. None of these are capitalized except subgenus and section. Note that it is generally not conventional to include interpolated names, which are usually better discussed in prose and laid out in taxoboxes, as they are not actually part of the scientific name, but are descriptive of taxonomic position. Interpolated names are easily confused with other terminology. If in doubt about parentheses, follow the usage in reliable sources.
  • Names of infrasubspecific terms and taxa (classifications below subspecies) as well as those of hybrids and the like at higher levels, vary in their handling, which is complex and highly specific:
    • Modifiers of a genus or species name are not italicized; the resulting terms are also not capitalized. These include zoological usages like "complex", "simplex", "species group", and "radiation"; and bacteriological usages like "phagovar", "chemovar", "serovar", and "biovar". Example: Drosophila tumiditarsus species group. Any names that pertain to them, usually added afterward, are capitalized (including letters in serial numbers) but not italicized. Example: Staphyloccocus aureus phagovar 42D. This should not be confused with such words when they are coincidentally used as species names, in which case they are, of course, italicized as such (simplex being a common case, as in Acacia simplex). As noted elsewhere herein, some specific terms like "subsp.", "var.", and "sect." in botany are abbreviated and the names that follow them do take italics; use the italics if the term refers to a formal taxonomic level, otherwise do not.
    • Recognized, naturally occurring botanical varieties are preceded by "var." and italicized and lower-cased like a subspecies: Escobaria vivipara var. arizonica. Subvarieties are labeled "subvar.", and handled the same way. It is not always necessary to use the longest form of a botanical name; Saxifraga aizoon var. aizoon subvar. brevifolia can be shortened to S. aizoon subvar. brevifolia if the variety is already clear in the context.
    • Hybrids have one or more epithets styled following the rules above, plus the interpolated, non-italicized symbol "×" (multiply/times/by, available in the "Insert" editing tools below the editing box; not the letter "x" or "X"). The exact format varies by organism. The {{Hybrid}} template will take care of the formatting for you, for all of the cases listed below:
      • If the hybrid does not have its own unique published name, the default format is "×" between the epithets of the two parent taxa, with normal-width spaces on both sides of the "×" (preferably non-breaking on the left): Cattleya warscewiczii × C. aurea; a hybrid "wolfdog" (Canis lupus × C. l. familiaris). This format is used between two parent species or subspecies, two genera, a genus and species, etc.; intergeneric and subspecific example: Felis lybica catus × Prionailurus bengalensis bengalensis. Code: {{hybrid|Taxon1|Taxon2}}.
      • A nothogenus (naturally occurring intergenus hybrid) is italicized, capitalized (no lower than the subgenus level), and given with the interpolation "×" as a prefix. Nothogenera are genus-level hybrids to which authorities have assigned unique portmanteau names, which are simply preceded by "×" and a hair space (encoded as  )[f] between the "×" and the hybrid name: Crosses between the genera Amaryllis and Crinum are classified as ×Amarcrinum; the nothospecies ×Amarcrinum memoria-corsii is an Amaryllis belladonna × Crinum moorei cross.; do not use the hard-to-read unspaced style, as in ×Amarcrinum, for accessibility reasons. Avoid beginning sentences with this non-alphabetic character, as in ×Amarcrinum is a cross between the genera Amaryllis and Crinum. Code: {{hybrid|Nothogenus}}.
      • A nothospecies (naturally occurring interspecies hybrid, which may also cross genus lines) that is long-standing enough for its own independent, published name below the genus level uses the same style except lower-case, and preceded by the upper-case genus: Citrus ×sinensis. Code: ''Genus'' {{hybrid|nothospecies|lc=y}}.
      • Where both a hybrid name and a cultivar name (see below) appear in an epithet, the former precedes the latter: Amaryllis ×parkeri 'Hathor'.
    • Kleptons and synkleptons are denoted by the abbreviations "kl." and "sk." respectively, not italicized or capitalized: Pelophylax kl. grafi. The "." is included in these symbols.
    • Cultivar names (in both horticultural and agricultural botany) are capitalized in title case[2], are never italicized, and are given after the scientific name, in single quotation marks, without brackets of any kind. This applies to all domesticated plants with formal cultivar names, and the capitalization is performed even where they do not contain proper names): Persea americana 'Hass', and Malus domestica 'Golden Delicious', each cultivars within a species; Malus domestica × M. sylvestris 'Granny Smith', an interspecific-hybrid cultivar within a genus, which can be given more succinctly as Malus 'Granny Smith' – specifying the parent species is not always important in the context and can be distracting. While various gardening and horticulture books boldface the cultivar name to make it stand out, do not do this in Wikipedia, as doing so is not actually part of the scientific nomenclature of cultivated plants, and Wikipedia is not a plant guidebook. (See ICN's formal declaration that such boldfacing is not part of the convention.)[3] The single quotation marks are not used in running text, only in the context of taxonomy: cultivars such as Black Mission, Croisic, and Ventura produce reliable crops. (See § Breeds, cultivars, and varieties section, below, for handling of cultivars and cultivar groups in running text.)
    • A domesticated plant cultivar group name is capitalized along with the symbol "Group" (or abbreviated form "Gp", with no "."), not italicized and not put in quotation marks or parentheses: Rhododendron boothii Mishmiense Group; you can use {{sic|hide=y}} to prevent overcorrections of what will look like a typographic error to many reader-editors: {{sic|Mishmiense Group|hide=y|reason=Both of these are properly capitalized per the ICNCP.}} Where both appear, the group epithet precedes the cultivar epithet: Brassica oleracea Italica Gp 'Calabrese'. (See § Breeds, cultivars, and varieties, below, for handling of cultivars and cultivar groups in running text.)
    • A grex (horticultural, artificial hybrid) name is capitalized, but the symbol "grex" (or abbreviated form "gx", without a ".") is not, and neither are italicized or specially punctuated: Cattlya Hardyana grex is a C. warscewiczii × C. dowiana hybrid. On Wikipedia, do not omit "grex" (or "gx"); while it is common shorthand to do so in horticulturist catalogs and the like, the clipped usage is ambiguous and may be confusing. When both grex and cultivar group apply, use that order: × Rhynchosophrocattleya Marie Lemon Stick grex Francis Suzuki Group; if a specific cultivar name is also present, it goes last, and the cultivar group may be put in parentheses (round brackets) to break up the string for easier reading: Bletilla Penway Prelude gx (Penway Dancer Gp) 'Ballerina'.
    • When mentioning a trade designation (a.k.a. trade name or selling name), capitalize it in title case and surround it with the {{tdes}} template, with no quotation marks, brackets or other markup: {{tdes|Goldfingers}} gives Goldfingers. The template puts the trade name in a different font than the other text (this being the only ICNCP requirement; ICNCP's own examples show small-capitals formatting, but this is not required). Trade designations go at the end of the scientific name, or immediately before the cultivar epithet, if any: ''Choisya ternata'' {{tdes|Goldfingers}} 'Limo' produces Choisya ternata Goldfingers 'Limo'.[g] Avoid mentioning a trade designation if it is not important in the context, for the same neutrality reasons we do not normally mention brand names of any other products without an encyclopedic reason to do so.
    • A graft chimera name (usually a portmanteau of the names of the parent genera or species) should be capitalized and put in the {{chimera}} template. This will ensure that A) the name is preceded by the interpolated prefix "+", then B) a hair space character (coded as &8202;, which works in all modern browsers) between "+" and the following name;[f] C) that the name is italicized; and D) that the line cannot wrap after the "+". Example output: The graft chimera of Crataegus and Mespilus is +Crataegomespilus. If for some reason you needed to do it manually, the code would be: {{Nowrap|+ ''Crataegomespilus''}} Avoid beginning sentences with this non-alphabetic character, as in +Crataegomespilus is a graft chimera of Crataegus and Mespilus.
    • The vernacular names of landraces and general "types" or "kinds" of animals and plants are not italicized, not specially punctuated, not capitalized except where they contain proper names, and are not part of formal zoological nomenclature. See § Common (vernacular) names, below, for details.

Notes about italics[edit]

  • Do not italicize connecting terms interpolated into a taxon, such as the label of an infrageneric name; thus: Equus subgenus Hippotigris.
  • Do not italicize terms that precede or follow a taxon name in general prose, as they are not part of the name; thus: the genus Equus, the various Equus species.
  • Do not italicize taxonomic authority strings (author names or abbreviations thereof, and sometimes dates, following scientific names), as they are not part of the name; thus: Subgenus Potentilla Syme and subgenus Hypargyrium (Fourr.) Juz. have been combined under subgenus Potentilla.
  • Do not independently italicize name parts, as in ''Ambystoma'' ''tigrinum'' (unless, of course, separated by non-italic interpolations); this unnecessarily complicates the wikicode of the page.
  • Italicize names in series individually, e.g. ''Rosa gymnocarpa'', ''R. roxburghii'', ''R. persica'' not ''Rosa gymnocarpa, R. roxburghii, R. persica''.
  • Use plain typographic italicization wikimarkup, ''R. persica'' or <i>R. persica</i>, not semantic markup for emphasis, {{em|R. persica}} or <em>R. persica</em>. This italicization is purely typographic, not emphasizing.
  • Derived uses in non-biological contexts are not italicized: The largest of the Tyrannosauridae was T. rex, but Unicorn is an album by the band T. Rex.
  • To italicize display of an article title with a taxonomic term, see WP:Naming conventions (fauna)#Capitalisation and italicisation.

Abbreviating names[edit]

The bi- or tri-nominal name may be abbreviated if the full version has occurred previously, either:

  • at the start of the article, if it is the title of the article; or
  • in the same second-level section (the lead, in this case, will be considered such a section).

This does not apply when a section discusses multiple taxa at the same level that would share the same abbreviation: Thomson's gazelle (Eudorcas thomsonii) is easily distinguishable from the red-fronted gazelle (E. rufifrons), but not the zoo's E. thomsonii specimen survived an E. coli infection.

Other reasons to not abbreviate include:

  • a large amount of material, in a long section of complex material, between the first and second mention on the taxon or taxa considered for abbreviation; and
  • any abbreviation that might be confusing, e.g. because the shortened genus and species of a subspecies would be the same letter, or the abbreviation would coincide with a term for something else, like the initials and surname of a notable person.

Aim for a balance between concision and clarity, favoring the latter.

The final element of the name is never abbreviated: the arctic wolf (Canis lupus arctos) is a subspecies of gray wolf (C. lupus), or subspecies of Canis lupus include C. l. arctos and C. l. dingo, but never Canis lupus arctos is a subspecies of C. l. A sort of exception exists in virology, which regularly uses non-italicized codes to stand in for species names in a clear context (e.g. DHOV for Dhori virus).


Never misleadingly wikilink a scientific name, e.g. to its geographical or other namesake, as in ''Liriodendron [[China|chinense]]''; the article on the taxon can provide details about the namesake.

Generally, do not wikilink different parts of epithets, e.g. to separate genus and species articles, as in ''[[Liriodendron]] [[Liriodendron chinense|chinense]]''; link to the most specific article or article section.

  • It is permissible but not required to used piped links to more general articles from more specific names, for example [[Persea americana|''Persea americana'' var. ''guatemalensis'']], and this method is preferred over red-linking if the more specific name (e.g., a subspecies) is covered at the more general article (use a section link when possible, if there is detailed coverage there).
  • Another tactic, if an article on (in this example) P. a. var. guatemalensis seems like one that would be likely to eventually exist, is to create it as a redirect that includes a "with possibilities" redirect categorization template, using wikitext like the following as the entire content of the redirect page. For botany, the template is {{R plant with possibilities}}: #REDIRECT [[Persea americana]] {{R with possibilities}}. For zoology, the template is {{R animal with possibilities}}. For other organisms, use the generic template {{R taxon with possibilities}}.
  • Because redlinks directly encourage the creation of new articles, it is preferable to redlink than to not link at all or to link misleadingly or confusingly, e.g. to an article that does not mention the term being linked from.
  • If the more specific name is not in fact mentioned in the more general target article, then link only part of the name: ''[[Persea americana]]'' var. ''guatemalensis''. (If it should be mentioned in the target page, and you have the materials for a source citation, consider adding it yourself.)

Redirect from alternative scientific names and spellings.

  • Alternative (e.g. obsolete or disputed) scientific names should be redirected to the actual article, and the {{R from alternative scientific name}} template added to the redirect so that it is categorized properly.
  • Whether an alternative name is mentioned in the lead, an infobox, or at all is a content decision left to the discretion of editors at the article in question, but any sourced name that redirects to the article should usually appear in it somewhere.
  • It may be helpful to readers to also create redirects for incorrectly capitalized scientific names, e.g. those in which a proper name appears in the species epithet, since readers unfamiliar with the conventions may look for the capitalized version, and such variation is actually found in some older sources, from before the Genus species convention was settled upon in the middle 20th century. In such a case, use {{R from alternative capitalization}}.
    • Do not include capitalization variants in the lead, if at all.
    • These should usually be lower-cased for typographic conformity even in quotations, unless preserving the original style is important in the context.

Sources and authorities[edit]

Scientific names, like other facts, must be verifiable with reliable sources. In the absence of such a source for a specific assumed usage, use normal descriptive text, e.g. a domestic cat (Felis catus) of the Van type, or the Brussels sprout variant of the domesticated cabbage plant (Brassica oleracea), and do not assert specific taxonomic terms such as "subspecies", "variety", "form", or "complex" without reliable sources. "Landrace", "population" and "breed" also have specific, though non-taxonomic, meanings and their use may require source citations. The terms "type", "variant", "sort" and "kind" are usually safe; While "type" also has the special meaning of "type specimen", this is rarely an ambiguity issue. Especially do not make up an assumed scientific name of any kind, like Felis catus van for the Van cat (domesticated animal landraces and breeds are not subspecies); or Brassica oleracea var. brussels, or Brassica oleracea 'Brussels Sprout' (the proper epithet is Brassica oleracea Gemmifera Group).

Taxonomic author names and years of description are not appended to scientific names except where especially important. This taxonomic authority string[h] –as in Felis catus Linnaeus, 1758 – is almost never needed outside of biology articles, and need not be repeated within one. Cases where this information is useful include:

  • At first occurrence in the biological article about that taxon; this is usually done in the taxobox, for the accepted name of the taxon in question and any synonyms it has. Taxobox provides special parameters for various authority types. Authorities are not needed in articles that have some other kind of infobox (e.g. an animal breed); simply link (if the infobox does not do this automatically) to the article on the species or genus, which will provide author names in its taxobox.
  • Non-repetitively in coverage of taxonomic disputes and developments, e.g. to distinguish between homonyms. However, best practice is to write plain English, e.g. Morgan X. Smith described the species as Foobar baz in 1820. Casey Z. Jones transferred it to the genus Quux in 1950.
  • In a list of subordinate taxa (e.g. species within a genus), either in the taxobox or in the body of the article.

Otherwise, authorities should not appear in running text, including in the opening sentence of an article, unless the article has no taxobox, in which case authority data should appear once per taxon in the article body. In the article body, wrap the author and date information in {{small}} or <small>...</small>. This need not be done in a taxobox, which handles this automatically. Do not apply another stylization such as SMALL-CAPS.

When one is provided, an author's name should be linked if there is an article to link to, and should not be abbreviated in absence of a link.

  • Link directly to a notable taxonomist's Wikipedia article, at first occurrence.
  • Linking to a nonexistent article ("red-linking") is not helpful, unless you plan to create the author article next.
  • Except in botany, avoid abbreviating any authors who are not notable and linked ([[Linnaeus|L.]] is permissible). If there is no author article to link to and the authority is not cited as a source in the article, give a full surname with at least one initial, when this information is available.
  • Botany: There are standardized abbreviations for important botanists which should be used in botanical articles (see List of botanists by author abbreviation). Link to the appropriate alphabetical section of that list for an author who has no article and is not already cited as a source in the article at hand. Do not make up your own author abbreviations.

In taxonomy, using parentheses (round brackets) around an author's name is not a typographic whim; it indicates that a scientific name has been derived from a taxon described by that author, but the name has since been changed (e.g. the species has been moved to a different genus). You can forestall well-meaning but mistaken changes to such formatting by wrapping the authority in a {{Not a typo}} template, or adding an HTML comment, e.g. <!--These parentheses are required.-->.

Whether to include a date, and whether to include a combining authority after a parenthetical authority, along with whether to abbreviate, varies by nomenclature code. It is recommended to copy a taxonomic authority string verbatim from a taxonomically reliable source.

Author information may include other terms like "in" and "ex"; these should not be italicized and do not take periods (full points): Acanthocereus (Engelm. ex A. Berger) Britton & Rose.

When there are three or more authors, give the first author name (or botanical abbreviation) followed by "et al.", not in italics:[i] Archaeplastida Adl et al., 2005.

When discussing authorities in more detail, use "described" not "discovered". Many species were discovered by indigenous peoples long before they were scientifically described and given a Latinate epithet. Some fossils and microorganisms can be said to have discoverers, but these are not their biological describers and Wikipedia needs to be clear about who played what role.[j] Alternative wording can be used for higher taxonomic categories, such as "erected". Do not use "circumscribed" used in place of "described"; circumscription should only be mentioned in a context where circumscriptions are being compared, e.g. Fooia was described by Linnaeus with a circumscription that included species now placed in Gooia and Booia.

Common (vernacular) names[edit]

Where there is a generally accepted common name, it is best to give both the common and scientific name at first occurrence when the scientific name is relevant: common thyme (Thymus vulgaris) or Thymus vulgaris (common thyme). Exact formatting varies by context, but parentheses are the most common usage.

If two common names are very prevalent, especially in different varieties of English, it is often helpful to give both, with or without the scientific name): the guinea pig or cavy (Cavia porcellus) or Cavia porcellus (cavies a.k.a. guinea pigs).

The type of organism is included at the end of the name when it is descriptive, geographical, or possessive; it is an organism named after another organism; the name is potentially ambiguous; or it is simply conventional to do so: marbled salamander, Dahurian thyme, Przewalski's horse, eel cod, African forest buffalo. When an organism is usually referred to without the type (most often when it has a non-English name borrowed into English, or has long had an independent name and was later reclassified), do not add the type; e.g., use argali and pennyroyal, not argali sheep or pennyroyal mint. Avoid usages not usually found in sources, such as seahorse fish. Avoid any usage that may be misleading, unless it is overwhelmingly preferred in sources, if there is a clearer alternative; e.g. use pronghorn and redbrush lippia, not pronghorn antelope or Mexican oregano (pronghorns are not really antelopes, and lippias are not even in the same family as oregano). In contexts where the meaning is already clear, it is unnecessary to keep repeating the type: Some commonly cultivated mints are the peppermint, spearmint, bergamot, Corsican, garden and gray species. If usage is heavily mixed in sources, usage on Wikipedia may vary, e.g. both bighorn and bighorn sheep are acceptable, and the former may even be preferable if the context already makes it clear that an ovid species is meant. If in doubt, prefer clarity over brevity. For the article title about the organism itself, prefer the longer version, e.g. Badlands bighorn sheep, even if the shorter variant might not seem too ambiguous; if the name is clearly adjectival in form before the type, always include the type: Turkmen wild goat not Turkmen wild. This keeps the articles in a category consistent; readers should not have to guess at article titles. It also avoids breaking readers' concentration; any usage (in titles or in text) that raises the question what? ("Turkmen wild what?") is not helpful to readers.


Lower-case initial letters are used for each part of common (vernacular) names of species, genera, families and all other taxonomic levels (bacteria, zebra, bottlenose dolphin, mountain maple, gray wolf, red-winged blackbird), except where they contain a proper name (Przewalski's horse, Amur tiger, Roosevelt elk).

Previously, some editors had arrived at a "local consensus" to propose, based on current and historic usage among those who study certain taxa, that the common names of species should be capitalized (generally or just in those categories). Various WikiProjects entirely or mostly capitalized these names in certain categories (e.g. birds, dragonflies, even cetaceans and primates). After numerous consensus discussions in multiple forums, the Wikipedia community rejected this practice as unencyclopedic jargon usage. The Manual of Style thus specifically deprecates this practice. Wikipedia consistently uses lower-case vernacular names regardless of taxonomic category, based on prevailing use in broad, peer-reviewed scientific and academic journals, general-audience mainstream sources, and the recommendations of most English writing authorities, despite the preference for capitalization in some specialist publications.[k]

Do not add such capitalization to any other category. Sticking to lower case increases site-wide consistency and is less jarring for readers, as well as less likely to lead to editing conflicts. If encountering an entire category of articles capitalized in this manner, it is probably better to seek community-wide consensus through a multi-article WP:Requested moves process, rather than risk editwarring by simply moving the articles. If usage in a category is mixed, normalizing the stragglers to lower case is unlikely to raise any controversy.

Create redirects from differently capitalized variants of the name to the actual article, since many specialist readers are used to the capitalization being used in journals in their field, and nature guides often capitalize all entries as an aid to visual scanning. Use {{R from alternative capitalization}} on the redirect pages.

Compounding and hyphenation[edit]

Follow the practice of the majority of reliable sources, including both general encyclopedic works and more specialist publications on the type of organism in question: sand shark, trout-perch, triggerfish. If sources conflict, prefer separate words, then hyphenation, then full compounding, in decreasing order. If hyphenating, see Wikipedia's hyphenation rules. Note that some groups of organisms conventionally are compounded more often than others, even when the constructions are otherwise similar, and majority usage in reliable sources will illustrate this: pufferfish, howler monkey.

Breeds, cultivars, and varieties[edit]

The names of standardized breeds of animals, and formal cultivars and varieties of domesticated plants (as recognized by major national or international organizations) are capitalized. Examples: Manx Loaghtan sheep, Siamese cat, Napa cabbage, Labrador Retriever, Golden Retriever, Sanguinello orange, Calabrese broccoli.[l] In a capitalized hyphenated name, the word after the hyphen is normally not capitalized, if not a proper name, per basic English grammar rules (Indian Country-bred, not Indian Country-Bred).

These instructions apply only to a breed, or a cultivar, cultivar group, or variety (hereafter just "cultivar") for which reliable sources clearly demonstrate at least one of:

  1. Formal recognition as such by one or more notable organizations that are:
  2. A formal conformation definition in a breed standard from such an organization. This may be a defined, named sub-breed or variant of a cultivar. Self-publication by non-notable breed clubs attempting to establish a new breed do not qualify.
  3. A well-attested history of intentional selective breeding with the aim of producing a controlled, named population with fixed traits distinguishable from other nearby populations (as may be the case for some well-studied cattle, dog, etc., breeds in developing countries, and those attested in detail in Early Modern sources before the establishment of breed registries).

Sourcing stringency is needed because many livestock- and pet-oriented publications have a tendency to over-use the word "breed" without any clear meaning; this is especially true of breed guidebooks/encyclopedias (tertiary sources), which have a fiduciary interest in seeming like a more comprehensive breed list than competing works.

As a rule of thumb, a "breed" that pre-dates the establishment of any organization devoted to that type of organism in that part of the world, and which is not presently recognized as an extant breed by such organizations, is usually just a landrace. This includes most populations in developing countries, and also applies to varieties attested in pre-modern manuscript materials and about which we have no selective-breeding information, such as the ancient Roman war dogs.

Standardized breeds that have become extinct (e.g. Alpine Mastiff, Norfolk Trotter) remain capitalized in titles and in article text, except for defunct natural breeds with the same name as their landrace; see below.

The general kind of organism (e.g. sheep, cat, pigeon, cabbage, orange) is not capitalized, added to the article title, or boldfaced in the lead, except when always an integral part of the name of the breed/variety, and even in that circumstance it is not capitalized. That exception is almost always to avoid ambiguity (e.g. Norwegian Forest cat, because "Norwegian Forest" by itself would be interpreted as a woodland in Scandinavia, not a cat breed). There may be conventional exceptions to the lower-casing – such as American Quarter Horse in which "Horse" is capitalized by most sources that capitalize the "Quarter" part, but these are uncommon variances. The kind may always be added, uncapitalized, as necessary for disambiguation (see Disambiguation, below).

Rule of thumb: If you can reasonably refer in many contexts to the breed or variety without the type, the type is optional and is not capitalized even when added sometimes for clarity: her Siamese was a GCCF Grand Champion and they prefer Taroccos to Sanguinellos, but not his cat is a Norwegian Forest, which is confusing, nor she has a Labrador Retriever dog, which is redundant. This style is also used for disambiguation. Some constructions that are normally redundant may be needed in some contexts, most often when the breed name could easily be mistaken for a person or persons: The French pianist was traveling with a German Shepherd dog. Keep accessibility in mind; screen-readers for the visually impaired do not indicate capitalization, so that device by itself is insufficient clarity.

Colors, coat patterns, and other phenotypic features (long-haired, sable, agouti) are not capitalized, except where they contain a proper name (light Siamese sable), or are an integral part of the overall name of a standardized breed (British Shorthair). The official name of a competitive division at a fancier/breeder event is capitalized (first place in the Light Siamese Sable Division). The unusually compounded and/or truncated adjectives favored by some registries are not used except in the names of standardized breeds as recognized by breed registries (breed: Exotic Longhair; non-breed: domestic long-haired cat, unless the usage is obviously figurative and thus would not be confused with encyclopedic description, and is consistently fully compounded in reliable sources (heavy warmblood, mulefoot pig). Do not misuse compounded breed style for a non-breed, as in "domestic longhair". Hyphenation of descriptive terms is generally preferred over compounding, as readability and understandability are impaired when they are multisyllabic, as in chocolatepoint versus the clearer chocolate-point. If sources are not consistent on compounding, Wikipedia uses the hyphenated version. Do not hyphenate non-compounds, as in "light-Siamese-sable".

For captive-bred varieties of wild animals (common in the pet trade), use lower-case other than for trademarks and for names of varieties/strains that are as well-established as domestic breeds and appear consistently capitalized in virtually all sources; do not capitalize names of general types of captive-bred animals, groups of strains, color patterns, and other groupings of animals, except where they contain a proper name. Examples: GloFish (trademark), albino and Mojave ball pythons (color patterns, one containing a proper name), flowerhorn cichlid and blood parrot cichlid (general types of hybrid aquarium fish), luohan and golden base flowerhorns (broad groups of flowerhorn cichlid varieties), Red Mommon and IndoMalau (very specific variety and strain/sub-variety, respectively, of flowerhorn cichlid). Laboratory strains of rodents, fruit flies, etc., are given in lower-case, though often contain capitalized proper names: Wistar rat, knockout rat, shaking rat Kawasaki. Some populations have coded designations following particular prescribed formulae, e.g. SC-Tg(EGFP)/Rrrc-ES1234/Kyo, or B6.Cg-m +/+ Leprdb, which vary in format by strain type. Our articles rarely need be so specific. For details, see the Guidelines for Nomenclature of Mouse and Rat Strains (GNMRS),[4] but it is recommended to simply copy such a code directly from the source (including any italics, superscripting, etc.) if one needs to be mentioned on Wikipedia.

Ecotypes, landraces, natural breeds, and alleged breeds[edit]

Fanciers' and breeders' publications are notoriously unreliable when it comes to distinguishing between formally recognized, standardized breeds (or cultivars), alleged new varieties promoted by particular breeders, and landraces and other more general, unstandardized types, calling all of them simply "breeds" or "varieties" for short. As a more factual and educational publication, Wikipedia has a duty to be more precise.

The term "breed" should not be applied to landraces and other populations (see below) for which we do not have reliable sources for controlled, selective breeding. Using "standardized breed" for breeds that qualify is generally a good idea. Links can be piped as needed; e.g. a typical dog breed article's first sentence might contain something like "... is a standardised breed of domesticated dog, in the pointing group, and originating in ...".

"Variety" is similarly overused, in conflicting ways, in description of plants. Distinguish between a cultivar, cultivar group, taxonomic variety or form, hybrid, etc. Most of these are covered in detail above. The material below is primarily about landraces and various imprecise terms for breeds and cultivars.

Ecotypes and biological races are never capitalized except where a proper name occurs.
  • An ecotype (or ecospecies) is a distinct wild population within a species (or genus), adapted to a specific environment.
  • A race, in the biology sense, is a less clearly distinguishable wild population within a species or subspecies, separated by environment, geography, or genetics.
Landraces, and mongrel (including most feral) populations, are never capitalized except where a proper name occurs.
  • A landrace is a reliably identifiable regional phenotype of a domesticated species that is not a formal breeds/cultivar, and produced by a mixture of some selective breeding and some free-breeding adaptation to the regional environment. Examples: St. John's water dog, Van cat, Grenada pigeon pea.
    • Do not confuse a landrace with a standardized breed that has "Landrace" in its name, which is common in livestock breeds derived from landraces.
  • Mongrels, which are often feral, are free-breeding members of a domesticated species with randomly mixed ancestry that includes multiple breeds/varieties. Example: Kiger mustang. Very few named populations of mongrels are notable, so coverage of them on Wikipedia is very limited.
  • Registration of a landrace or mongrelized feral population by a fanciers', breeders', horticultural, agricultural, conservation, scientific, or regulatory organization, e.g. for naming of a pseudo-breed for pedigree purposes or for naming a group as a legally protected feral population, does not permit capitalization on Wikipedia. As an example, a non-purebred domestic cat with short hair (nicknamed a "moggy" in some dialects) is a domestic short-haired cat, even if an organization like the CFA has designated them "Domestic Shorthair" for their own internal registry purposes.
  • Do not use non-neutral "the" phrasing for such populations, but treat as a common noun: A domestic short-haired cat is ..., not The domestic short-haired cat is ... or The Domestic Shorthair is ....(Such a capitalized term may be used when referring to the official name of a specific registry's classification and competition system, as covered above.)
  • A landrace for which a standardization effort has begun remains lower-case, except in the exact context of that breeding program. Most of the animals by the landrace's name are not part of that breeding experiment and (except in unusual circumstances) it is not the primary subject of the article.
A natural breed is capitalized only if standardized, or where a proper name occurs.
  • The terms natural breed (for animals) and sometimes traditional variety (in horticulture) are often applied to a landrace that has in recent times been more deliberately selectively bred to conserve its most defining traits as a modern standardized breed or cultivar. These are capitalized only if they meet the definitions of a standardized breed in a notable breed registry, or a registered cultivar (or cultivar group or variety) in a cultivar registration authority.
  • However, both of these terms are frequently used as synonymous with "landrace", and landrace names are not capitalized. If in doubt (i.e., if the reliable sources do not demonstrate standardization and registration), use lower case.
  • When a "natural breed" in the standardized sense shares the same name as the landrace population from which it was developed (as with the Manx cat and the Old English Sheepdog), care must be taken in articles to distinguish between the feral or landrace populations (not capitalized except for proper names like "English") versus the controlled, standardized populations (capitalized), and to not confuse the respective facts about them, which may significantly differ. Treat them distinctly in a "History" section, in different sections, or (rarely) even in different articles if both the landrace and the standardized breed are independently notable.
  • An heirloom (a.k.a. heritage or conservation) variety of plant is a selectively bred cultivar that simply pre-dated industrial agriculture and continues to be selectively propagated to retain its non-hybridized traits; it is treated the same as other cultivars, and is not the same as a traditional variety.
  • Ambiguous labels like "rare breed", "ancient breed", "historical breed", "national breed", "traditional breed", etc., have no clear definition, are used in contradictory ways, and should be avoided. "Rare breed" in particular is used by different people to mean "landrace", "nearly extinct breed", "breed from a developing country", "experimental new crossbreed", and many other things.
  • "Traditional breed" or "old variety" are often used synonymously with "natural breed", but also used to distinguish a traditional, early, more natural version of a breed from a dominant newer breed standard with markedly different traits. Capitalize "Traditional", "Old", or a similar term only in the name of a variant that has been standardized as a separate breed or sub-breed (which may vary by registry). Examples include the Traditional Persian, and the Traditional Siamese (a.k.a. Thai cat in some standards); a counter example is old German herding dogs, a blanket term for ten or more landraces of working dog for whom some standardization efforts are in-progress, in distinction to the long-standardized German Shepherd.
Alleged new breeds are capitalized only if there is a published standard. Avoid confusing or non-neutral wording about them.
  • Various marketing terms have been invented for attempts to establish new breeds, either by crossbreeding existing standardized breeds, or by fixing the traits of a landrace. The terms new, developmental, and experimental breed are common and neutral, as is provisional breed in the context of early, limited acceptance by breed organizations. Rare breed (covered above) is too ambiguous.
  • Most attempts at establishing a new breed of animal or plant are not successful. Avoid non-neutral terminology like developing, nascent, promising, etc., that judge or even presuppose the success of a breeding program. Reliable secondary sources, not editor opinion, tell us about program success.
  • Designer breed originated as a promotional term in the 1980s, but has become a pejorative. It is a non-neutral term to avoid, regardless, except when quoted or attributed.
  • The name of a new breed with a verifiable (not self-published) breed standard should be capitalized like any other standardized breed, whether the standard is accepted yet by major breed registries. Those without a breed club publishing a standard cannot be distinguished, in an encyclopedic way, from a local landrace or mongrel population, and should not be capitalized.
  • Crossbreeds, such as "designer dogs", which typically have portmanteau names, are not capitalized, even if part of their name is derived from a proper noun. They should not be labeled with "the" in the singular, but addressed as a common noun like any mongrel population, as in A labradoodle is a cross between a Labrador Retriever and any of several poodle breeds, not The Labradoodle is  .... This also applies to wild–domestic hybrids such as wolfdogs and beefalo, and various experimental botanical hybrids. Should a crossbreed or hybrid be accepted by major organizations as an established domesticated breed (example: Bengal cat) or cultivar, treat it as any other standardized breed or cultivar, though infoboxes may have special parameters for their taxonomy. Do not refer to crossbreeds as hybrids or vice versa, even though some imprecise sources blur the distinction, and the verb crossbreed[ing] is sometimes used in reference to hybrids. We have separate articles on these concepts as nouns, which should be linked at first occurrence (there are sometimes narrower family- or genus-specific articles and sections you can use, such as Bovid hybrid, Canid hybrid, Felid hybrid, and Citrus taxonomy#Hybrids).

Sourcing of breeds and cultivars[edit]

Whether an alleged breed or cultivar should be included in Wikipedia is a WP:Notability question.
  • Plant and animal varieties are subject to the general notability guideline: non-trivial coverage in multiple, independent, reliable sources.
  • Wikipedia is not an indiscriminate collection of information. The fact that a variety seems to exist, or to have formerly existed, is insufficient reason for Wikipedia to have an article about it.
  • The general Wikipedia consensus that all currently recognized animal and plant species should (eventually) have an article – that being a species automatically confers notability – does not apply to subspecific ranks, and thus does not apply to breeds, cultivars, landraces, and other populations of domesticates.
Verifiability and original research
Wikipedia is not a repository for original thought or research, about animals, plants, or anything else.
  • Assertion that a breed once but no longer recognized still exists as such, rather than having been subsumed back into the general population or gone extinct, would constitute original research.
  • So would treating the announcement of a breeding program as the establishment of a new breed (see also WP:Wikipedia is not a crystal ball, and WP:Wikipedia is not for things made up one day).
  • Another form of original research is asserting that an ancient variety attested in manuscript materials is a breed or cultivar in the modern sense; this is a supposition that cannot be verified.
Source reliability
Several types of sourcing are frequently problematic on the subject of alleged breeds of animals and plants, and should be treated with caution.
  • Most material on "new breed" experiments is self-published, and Wikipedia should thus not have articles on most of them. Small one-breed clubs have a fiduciary interest in promoting an alleged breed and its distinctiveness; these are not independent sources. Some small multi-breed clubs are operated by and for promoters of experimental breeds that have failed to receive recognition from more established bodies.
  • Only reliable, independent, secondary sources can analyze, evaluate, and interpret claims of progress or success in establishment of a new standardized breed or cultivar. Acceptance by a major international organization is the surest sign of success, though this process does not apply universally (e.g., horse breeding has no all-breed international registries; recognition is primarily a factor of acceptance by multiple encyclopedias and governmental livestock regulation organizations).
  • Most breed-profile articles in fancier publications are written by professional breeders and serve a promotional purpose. These are primary sources, are not independent, and do not help establish notability, nor can they be used to give undue weight to controversial claims, such as dubious breed origins or untested assertions about intelligence, temperament, and other hard-to-quantify characteristics (see also WP:Pseudoscience). Those written by international show judges, veterinarians, and others without a direct connection to the breed may be more reliable.
  • Breed and cultivar encyclopedias (tertiary sources) vary widely in quality – one may be written by a biologist for a major publisher, another by someone with no credentials essentially plagiarizing prior works for a "coffee-table book" company. Even reputable and comprehensive ones age quickly. Some livestock breed lists accept paid promotional entries for new varieties.
  • The DAD-IS breed database (a tertiary source) uncritically accepts data submitted to it by governments and other bodies, and does not clearly distinguish between standardized breeds, landraces, and populations that are unremarkable other than for being within particular geographic boundaries, nor does it make any effort to merge entries on populations that simply have different names in different places. The source is generally useful for data on varieties that are described and distinguished in reliable secondary sources, but it does not itself establish that they are distinct or notable, nor how to classify them. DAD-IS's problems carry over to other databases that rely on it, such as the Global Databank for Animal Genetic Resources. Example of problems include recording extinct breeds as still extant and vice versa, listing breeds as "endangered" when they're simply not common in a particular country, and accepting gross over-reporting of breeds (e.g. almost 200 horse "breeds" in Germany alone).
  • Websites of unclear authorship and without reputable publishers are most often user-generated content, which is not reliable sourcing. Many also have copyright violations (e.g. scans of various publications' articles) and should not be directly linked to for these.

General, vague, or indeterminate groupings[edit]

The collective term for a natural grouping of species, domesticated type of organism, or range of breeds or varieties, is always written in lower case (except where a proper name occurs): New World monkeys, slime mold, rove beetles, great apes, mountain dogs, a spitz-type dog breed, hound group, long-haired breed group section, triticale, blood oranges, Brussels sprouts, Northern European short-tailed sheep. This also applies to organisms of indeterminate taxonomic identification: some kind of antelope. Exception: When a grouping is a proper name, it should be rendered as such within the organizational context to which it pertains: the Canadian Kennel Club's Hound Group, the CFA 2015 Grand Champion in the Persian Group (Silver & Golden Division); but not otherwise (Most kennel clubs have hound groups, sometimes subdivided into scent- and tree-hound groups; Jackson's cats have earned champion and grand champion ribbons in three registries' competitions). Use plain English when possible, and do not apply neologistic compounds from particular organizations (e.g., the jargonistic "shorthair, colorpoint breed" for the clearer "short-haired breed with point coloration") outside those specific organizational contexts (the CFA's Colorpoint Shorthair is a hybrid between the Siamese and another breed). Wikipedia is written for everyone, and is not aimed at professional plant and animal breeders.

Article titles and disambiguation[edit]

Article titles are determined by a mixture of factors as discussed at WP:Naming conventions (fauna) and WP:Naming conventions (flora), which defer to the Manual of Style on stylistic matters, but otherwise rely upon WP:Article titles, WP:Reliable sources and other non-stylistic policies and guidelines. Style matters are independent of the title chosen for the article, and article content and article titling considerations are inter-dependent.

Create redirects from competing names to the actual article, and use {{R from alternative name}} on the redirect pages.

The preferred way to disambiguate an article on an organism, that is not titled by its scientific name, is to add the general type of organism, uncapitalized and without parentheses, when it is not the primary topic for the name by itself: Andalusian horse, Black Iberian pig. This is known as natural disambiguation, and is preferred by both WP:Article titles policy and the WP:Disambiguation guideline. Parenthetical disambiguation can be used when two things by the same name would still collide, thus Black Hereford (breed) and Black Hereford (crossbreed). Otherwise, parenthetic disambiguation is usually used for individual animals, e.g. Snowflake (gorilla). It is a good idea to redirect to the actual article title any variations that do sometimes occur in sources and which may fit other disambiguation patterns; e.g., Poodle dog and Poodle (dog) redirect to Poodle. Use {{R from alternative disambiguation}} on such redirect pages.

Avoid the urge to "pre-disambiguate" on the basis that an organism's name might conceivably be confused with something else. If there's no other subject with encyclopedic coverage[m] with which the animal or plant name could be confused, then there's no need to disambiguate (e.g., use Akhal-Teke not Akhal-Teke horse). An exception is when a breed name might be confused with a human population about whom an article or article section could be written, in which case disambiguate the animal (e.g. Algerian Arab sheep). Another is when a name is intolerably ambiguous and will imply something completely different to non-expert readers, e.g. Silver Marten to Silver Marten rabbit, and Asturian Mountain to Asturian Mountain cattle (see WP:PRECISE policy).

Lead section[edit]

When a common (vernacular) name of a taxon is used as the article title, the boldfaced common name is followed by the italic boldfaced binomial or trinomial name, as applicable, in parentheses (round brackets) in the opening sentence of the lead section. Alternative names should be mentioned and reliably sourced in the text where applicable, with bold type in the lead if they are in wide use, or elsewhere in the article (with or without the bold type, per editorial discretion) if they are less used. Examples:

  • Thomson's gazelle (Eudorcas thomsonii) is the most common gazelle of East Africa
  • Grunters or tigerperches are fishes that form the family Terapontidae
  • The rove beetles are a large family (Staphylinidae) of beetles

It is not desirable to include non-English common names unless they are also commonly used in English, e.g. regionally; if included, they should be italicized as non-English (best done with a {{Lang-xx}} template, which will auto-italicize as well as indicate the language).

When the article title is the scientific name, reverse the order of the scientific and common name[s] (if any of the latter are given), italicize the scientific name, and boldface both. Do not boldface a long list of common names. Avoid putting the most common name in parentheses (this will suppress its display in some views of Wikipedia, including Wikipedia:Pop-ups and Google Knowledge Graph). Examples:

For a monotypic taxon, also boldface any other of its monotypic taxa in the lead, because they are also the subject of the article, and should redirect to it. For example:

  • The aardvark (Orycteropus afer) is the only species within the monotypic genus Orycteropus, which is monotypic within the family Orycteropodidae, which is itself monotypic within the mammal order Tubulidentata.

Individual animals[edit]

Most individual animals (wild, pet, or livestock) are not notable. See WP:Notability and its general notability guideline. In particular, winning an award or competition is not sufficient to establish notability. An animal must be the subject of non-trivial coverage in multiple, independent, reliable sources. Fictional individual animals are subject to the same rules as fictional persons; see WP:Manual of Style/Writing about fiction § Characters and other fictional elements; and Wikipedia:Notability (books) § Derivative articles.

Per WP:Article titles policy at WP:Common names, use the most commonly attested name in reliable sources. If a longer or other alternative name exists, it is appropriate to mention this in a notable animal's article, and it can sometimes be appropriate to do so in other contexts. Per WP:Article titles again, and WP:Disambiguation in more detail, use the shortest reasonable parenthetical disambiguating term when one is needed. Example: A notable show dog best known as Figwit's Fancy should be at an article with that title, and usually referred to in article text by this name. If the dog's best-known name differs from its official name with a pedigree registry (which may be much longer, e.g., SK's Figtwit's Fancy of Ramsey Gyatso), it would be appropriate to also include the longer name in the dog's article, e.g. in the lead and/or infobox, as well as perhaps in a discussion of the registry and its best-known grand champion show dogs. If the dog had to be distinguished from something else called Figwit's Fancy, use the article title "Figwit's Fancy (dog)". If there were two dogs commonly known by this name, disambiguate further, e.g. "Figwit's Fancy (poodle)".

Do not add the surname of the owner or keeper of an animal to the name of the animal, as in using "Lucy Temerlin" for Lucy (chimpanzee), unless the most common form of the animal's name as reported in reliable sources includes that surname, for example the Darley Arabian.

Do not put individual animals' names in quotation marks, italics, or any other special markup. If it's unclear that something is an animal's name, rewrite to clarify: Her dog, named X3, alerted her to the intruder.

When an animal's sex is known, gendered pronouns are appropriate (she/her/hers or he/him/his, not it/its). Spayed/neutered animals are treated as their original complete sex for this purpose.

We generally do not add achievement titles or their abbreviations to the names of humans (Sir Laurence Olivier; Walter Lindrum, OBE), except in the first sentence of the lead section of the article on that person (with a link to what the title means), so we obviously follow the same rule for animals, e.g. with titles like Grand Champion (GC). Mentioning such a title in other contexts would only be appropriate in unusual cases, such as in image captions when illustrating a breed article with photos of reliably sourced conformance-champion specimens.

Another WP:Common names concern, addressed more generally at WP:Naming conventions (use English), is that we use the names of notable animals as they are best known in English, even if this requires disambiguation. Example: Snowflake (gorilla) a.k.a. Floquet de Neu and Copito de Nieve. However, an animal that is known exclusively by its untranslated foreign-language name would not be written about here using an editor's translation of the name. Examples: the horses Totilas and Salinero. Where multiple names exist, non-English names that appear with non-trivial frequency in English-language publications should exist as redirects to the English article name, and be mentioned as alternative names in the lead and/or infobox of the article on the animal.

As a matter of encyclopedic tone, remember that articles on notable animals exist principally to provide information on why an animal is historically and/or culturally important; they are not biographies, strictly speaking. An animal is only notable in a human context. Care must be taken to avoid anthropomorphism, including subtle implications of human-like thought or agency, such as motivations, goals, disappointments, decisions, etc. An example is Scarlett (cat), which is not notable for being "heroic" in instinctually rescuing her kittens from a house fire. Her actions cannot be measured by a human-level, conscious weighing of risk vs. love, coming to a self-sacrificing decision. Such a notion would be original research and unverifiable. The animal is notable because her story became a widespread meme, with the press labeling her heroic, the public elevating her to a symbol of motherly love, and over 7,000 people requesting to adopt her and her kittens, a possible record for pet adoption requests.


  1. ^ Usage note: This guideline uses quotation marks, not italics, for words as words because italics are used throughout for other purposes, and thus italicizing words as words would render it more difficult to understand.
  2. ^ In botany, Saxifraga aizoon var. aizoon subvar. brevifolia is technically a classification not a taxonomic name. Wikipedia articles will typically use such a classification. Although not formally part of the name and not italicized, connecting terms like "var." are required in all infraspecific botanical classifications. (They are not used in zoological names since there is only one rank below species in zoology.) Shorter forms like Saxifraga var. aizoon or Saxifraga aizoon subvar. brevifolia are only permissible when the higher level classifications have already been given, and the shortened form clearly refers to it. For example, Saxifraga aizoon must clearly precede Saxifraga var. aizoon, with no confusion as to the fact that "S. var. aizoon" is the self-named variety of the species S. aizoon.
  3. ^ If a term has already been linked recently in the article, then its first occurrence in abbreviated form should simply be marked up with the {{abbr}} template, e.g.: {{abbr|var.|variety}}. If the first occurrence of such an abbreviation is in a name and the entire name including the abbreviation is linked to an article on the organism, then apply a terminological link or {{abbr}} to the next available instance of the abbreviation.
  4. ^ a b The zoological abbreviation "ssp." is obsolete inside a name, but is sometimes used with one, e.g. Felis silvestris catus × Prionailurus bengalensis ssp., to indicate a hybrid of domestic cats with any of several subspecies of Asian leopard cats. On Wikipedia, this is best explained in plain English except in tabular data like an infobox's parameter for the scientific name.
  5. ^ The ICNP permits but does not require italicization of higher taxa. This is not done on Wikipedia for consistency's sake. E.g., some cyanobacteriological nomenclature is published under the ICN and some under the ICNP, which would result in conflicting use of italics from article to article within the same category.
  6. ^ a b Reliable sources vary widely, and even between editions, on handling of spacing and the ×/+ characters. When used between two names, × is almost universally fully-spaced, while before a single name either character is often not spaced at all, to group it with the name as a unit. This may be problematic for searching, accessibility, metadata, and other reasons on Wikipedia, so hair-spacing with &#8202; should be used. Using thinner spaces rather than none is also recommended by some other style guides. Do not use the code &hairsp;, as it is not recognized by all browsers. Browsers are also inconsistent on whether they permit a line break at this character, which is one of the reasons Wikipedia is providing markup templates like {{Hybrid}} and {{Chimera}}, which fix both the wrapping and spacing issues for you, and also work around infobox-induced italicization problems.
  7. ^ Technically, and especially for long, complex names, the cultivar name and its single quotation marks can also be placed in parentheses (round brackets) after the trade designation for visual clarity, but this style is an unnecessary complication on Wikipedia, especially since parentheses are more commonly used around names of cultivar groups. Do not mix both uses of parentheses in the same name.
  8. ^ These author-and-date appendages are sometimes known as nomina (singular nominum), though this is an ambiguous term, also used in nomina conservanda, nomina dubia, and nomina nuda, which all apply to organism names not to authors.
  9. ^ Use of italics varies in sources. Wikipedia does not italicize "et al." in the context of source citation authorship, so does not do so in the context of taxon authorship either.
  10. ^ For example, Borealopelta was discovered by an oil sands miner. Bacillus safensis was discovered by researchers inspecting a (presumably) sterile facility. But the taxa weren't described by the people who discovered them.
  11. ^ Capitalization of the common names of species is regarded by many Wikipedians (including many professional biologists) as grammatically incorrect, and an inappropriate imposition of an in-house style from very narrowly specialized journals. Editors have commented on the matter in various WP:RFCs and other debates (at WT:MOS, WT:VPP, WP:MR, etc.) over the years, none of which have changed the general consensus against doing so. In 2012, an extensive discussion at Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style reaffirmed a 2008 site-wide consensus at WP:Manual of Style#Animals, plants, and other organisms to not capitalize common names of species. This RfC can be found here. The subject had been a source of continual, heated and sometimes quite disruptive controversy on Wikipedia since 2004.

    While some narrow-topic journals (e.g. most in ornithology, many in herpetology, some in especially British botany), prefer the capitalization, most reliable academic and scientific publications, including leading biology, ecology, and general science journals (even when publishing ornithological papers) do not permit this capitalization. The same holds true for the vast majority of general-audience publications, such as newspapers, dictionaries, other encyclopedias, UK- and US-English writing and style guides, etc. (Field guides on these taxa are an exception, but field guides on all animals and plants, as well as minerals, antiques, and whathaveyou, uniformly capitalize in this way, to make the names stand out for quick visual scanning, a practice strongly deprecated here. Capitalizing common names against this consensus is likely to result in editwarring and be interpreted as disruptive. Wikipedia is not a soapbox for advocacy of topical style quirks.

  12. ^ Breed and cultivar/variety names are capitalized with near uniformity by such organizations as a matter of consistent convention, and general-audience publications (newspapers, dictionaries, etc.) sometimes also capitalize them. The majority of breed/cultivar names already contain a proper name (usually a place name), so only a relative handful would remain lower case, a confusing consistency problem. Editors may not already know which ones are and are not based on proper names. These names are also official divisions in animal and plant competitive shows put on by such organizations, and ultimately are the titles of publications, in the form of breed and cultivar standards, and registered certifications of compliance with those standards.
  13. ^ A stand-alone article is not required for a subject to have encyclopedic coverage and thus need disambiguation. It might be an article, a section, or an alternative name or subtopic that redirects or should redirect to one.

References and further reading[edit]

  1. ^ Various nomenclature codes are compared in Jeffrey, C. (1989). Biological Nomenclature (3rd ed.). London, UK: Edward Arnold Books.
  2. ^ More specifically:

    Each word of a cultivar epithet must start with an initial capital letter unless linguistic custom demands otherwise. Exceptions are words after a hyphen ... unless they are proper nouns, conjunctions, and prepositions other than those in the first word of the epithet .... A cultivar epithet commemorating the town of ’s-Hertogenbosch in The Netherlands is to be written ‘’s-Hertogenbosch’ and not ‘’S-Hertogenbosch’; similarly, the epithet commemorating the town IJsselham (spelled with the initial two letters in capitals) is to be written ‘IJsselham’ and not ‘Ijsselham’.

    Brickell, C. D.; et al., eds. (October 2009). "Article 21.3". International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants (PDF) (8th ed.). International Society for Horticultural Science (ISHS). p. 25 – via Scripta Horticulturae No. 10. Wikipedia uses straight quotation marks and apostrophes, which also serve a markup purpose; ''s-Hertogenbosch' can be rendered here with {{' '}}s-Hertogenbosch'.
  3. ^ The International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants (ICN) preface states of italicization of order and family: "The Code sets no binding standard in this respect, as typography is a matter of editorial style and tradition not of nomenclature." Most peer-reviewed scientific botanical publications do not italicize names above the rank of genus, and non-botanical scientific publications do not (except in virology; the ICTV adopted an italicization convention in the 1990s, which is ignored outside of that field).
  4. ^ Smith, Cynthia; Shimoyama, Mary, eds. (January 2016). Guidelines for Nomenclature of Mouse and Rat Strains. International Committee on Standardized Genetic Nomenclature for Mice / Rat Genome and Nomenclature Committee – via Jackson Laboratory.

See also[edit]