Hearing from the National Geographic and the news about the discoveries of new species of plants/animals, I was wondering how can a person confirm when they have actually discovered a new species of plant or animal?

How can they identify with enough certainty that it is not one of the species that has been previously discovered (out of the umpteen varieties of species)? Is there some kind of official/international database of species for plants/animals they typically look up to to confirm it? Also, how is the process of naming of a new species decided and why does it end up being a Latin name?


1 Answer 1


Basically, you have to examine as much of the relevant 'material' (preserved museum specimens) of the proposed new species and its closest relatives, and compare the diagnostic characters of your proposed new species versus those of its presumed closest relatives to confirm it is actually distinct. For example, with snakes (my field), we use counts of head and body scales, relative distances between features, relative length of tail, hemipene morphology, and even colouration, to determine species.

When combined with genetic evidence of monophyly of the new species and adequate divergence from closest relatives, it becomes a very robust species description. Finally, names can be accepted or rejected by the ICZN based on existing names for proposed species, though it's a very confusing mess for most groups. I'd recommend checking out their website for more in-depth guidelines

  • $\begingroup$ Tried searching a sample "Galleria mellonella" in ICNZ in the search bar but didn't find anything there $\endgroup$
    – Gin99
    Commented Apr 28, 2017 at 11:05
  • $\begingroup$ or are there other mayor international organizations that list the Latin names of plants / animals? $\endgroup$
    – Gin99
    Commented Apr 28, 2017 at 11:06
  • $\begingroup$ these will be relevent biology.stackexchange.com/questions/52990/… and biology.stackexchange.com/questions/14059/… Tree of Life web project is decent. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Commented Apr 29, 2017 at 1:32

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