The joys of taxonomy....

Langford Lowfields

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Langford Lowfields

The joys of taxonomy....

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The joys of what? Taxonomy is the study of classification of organisms and I love it!

Indeed it is fascinating when you start to look at relationships between species and the meaning of scientific names.

All organisms known to science are classed using a hierarchal system, which in simple terms goes as follows –


Phylum (known as Division in the Plant Kingdom)






The broadest level is the Kingdom, with each subsequent level containing less and less species, more closely related to each other, until the bottom level, which refers to just one species.

Scientific names are binomial – that is they are made up of two names, the generic name and specific name – each binomial referring to one species. For example, the bittern’s scientific name is Botaurus stellaris, Botaurus being the Genus and stellaris being the Species.

You should always see scientific names written in italics (or in some other way that is distinguishable from English text) and sometimes followed by a persons name and date. This is the authority who named the species and the date in which the name was published.

So, here are some examples of scientific names of Langford species and their (roughly translated) meanings….

Bittern, Botaurus stellaris – ‘starry bull ox’

Marsh harrier, Circus aeruginosus – ‘a hawk full of copper’

Tree sparrow, Passer montanus – ‘mountaineering sparrow’

Lapwing, Vanellus vanellus – ‘a winnowing fan’

Oystercatcher, Haematopus ostralegus – ‘blood footed oyster lifter’

Reed warbler, Acrocephalus scirpaceus – ‘reed resembling pointed head’

Sedge warbler, Acrocephalus schoenobaenus – ‘reed walking pointed head’

Little grebe, Tachybaptus ruficollis – ‘reddish necked fast sinker’

Gadwall, Anas strepera – ‘noisy duck’

Cormorant, Phalacrocorax carbo – ‘charcoal coloured bald raven’

and finally a couple of insects and some of my personal favourites….

Subcoccinella vigintiquatuorpunctata (that takes some practice to spell!), better known as the 24-spot ladybird, or ’24 spotted below little scarlet’

and Agapanthia villosoviridescens - a longhorn beetle - can anyone shed any light on the meaning of this name?


  • Did anyone have a look for the meaning of Agapanthia villosoviridescens?

    After some research, I'm told that it means 'shiny haired servant of God' - the species name villosoviridescens being the 'shiny haired' bit and Agapanthia meaning 'servant of God', alternatively, it is apparently also a girl's name.