Are species names proper nouns?

Discussion in 'English Only' started by MissFit, Nov 27, 2006.

  1. MissFit

    MissFit Senior Member

    Is the common name of a species a proper noun and therefore capitalized? Does it depend on how the name is used? I did some searching around the Internet and I found both capital and lower-case usages of all types in both technical and non-technical writing. Does anyone know if there is a general rule?

    Here are some example sentences:
    [Referring to the entire species] The Eastern Bluebird is one of North America's most beautiful birds.
    [Referring to a single animal] I saw a Crested Goshawk near the golf course.
    [Plural] Because of their distinctive coloring, spotted salamanders are easily identified.
    [As an adjective] We have observed the grey wolf population rebound dramatically in recent years.
  2. ash93

    ash93 Senior Member

    England, United Kingdom - English but can speak Urdu, Memon and Hindi
    We usually capitalize them over here and they are generally referred to as proper nouns.
  3. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    The usage as you have illustrated is normal.
    If the species name is being used specifically and in association with an individual or the species as a whole, capitalise.
    If the species name is being used generically, or attributively, don't.

    Most importantly, don't assume that any one guide on this subject is "correct". The style varied widely - check the Wiki entry - and may vary depending on whether you are talking about birds, mammals or fish.

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