What is binomial nomenclature? Scientists all over the world have been giving all living things a series of names in Latin. Most of the time, it is the last two or three of these names that are used to identify a species or type of animal. The scientific name goes back further and includes, in the case of birds, for example, Class, Order, Family, Genus and species. I did not capitalize "species" as it is usually not capitalized when giving the animal or plant's scientific name (there are exceptions). These categories may be subdivided (i.e., suborder, subclass, etc.).
The reason that it is done in Latin is because it is a "dead" language. This means it is not used anymore and therefore is not likely to change. This was "invented" by a man named Linnaeus and the study of this is called taxonomy. If you were to find a living whatever that no one had ever seen before and wanted to name it, you would have to submit the name to the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature to make sure it conformed to their rules and that no one had found one and named it already.
I could give you many examples of this, but one or two will suffice. The robins that we enjoy all summer long are named Turdus migratorius (scientific names are usually italicized). How about a mammal? The buffalo is named Bison bison, which is really its proper name.
Enough of this. How about a little humor? I am going to give "What's for dinner" and you can try to figure it out. Answers are at the end of the article.
For an appetizer, choose one:
Abdominal musculature of Penaeus setiferus
Gallus domesticus hepatic pate
Chilled extract of Lycopersicum esculentum
Ventral intercostal muscles of Sus scrofa domestica
Soup for the evening:
Cream of Agaricus campestris
Adjacent myotomes of Salmos gairdneri almondine
Pelvic appendage musculature of Rana castesbeiana, sautè Allium. sativum butter
Fresh thymus or pancreas of Bos spp. Sautè
Sliced Meleagris gallopava with gravy
Berries of Vaccinium. macrocarpon sauce
Taproots of Daucus carota var. sativa
Taproots of Beta vulgarius
Swollen tuberous roots of Ipomoea batatas
Beverages (your choice):
Fresh extract of the drupes of Coffea spp.
Terminal leaf extract from Thea spp.
Mammary extract of Bos taurus
Fresh Cucurbita pepo pie, Oryza sativa pudding sprinkled with milled bark of Cinnamomum. zeylanicum
Your waiter/waitress will be happy to suggest the perfect fermented 14 percent ethyl alcohol from the berries of Vitis vinifera to complement your meal.
Since this is to be published before Thanksgiving, I chose the traditional turkey dinner. Here are a few more interesting things about that wonderful bird.
Think you know everything about that tasty bird called the turkey? Test your trivia and wow guests with these turkey tidbits, courtesy of the National Turkey Federation.
1. Benjamin Franklin proposed the turkey as the official American bird, but the bald eagle was chosen instead.
2. The top five most popular ways to serve leftover Thanksgiving turkey are: sandwich, soup or stew, casserole, stir-fry or salad.
3. Ninety-five percent of Americans surveyed by the National Turkey Federation eat turkey at Thanksgiving. The average weight of turkeys purchased for Thanksgiving is 15 pounds.
That means about 690 million pounds of turkey were consumed in the United States during Thanksgiving in 2006.
4. In 2006, about 271 million turkeys were raised. It's estimated that 46 million of those turkeys were eaten at Thanksgiving, 22 million at Christmas and 19 million at Easter.
5. The white versus dark meat war rages on. White meat is preferred in the United States, while other countries favor dark meat. A turkey usually has about 70 percent white meat and 30 percent dark meat. White meat has fewer calories and less fat than dark meat.
6. According to the USDA, the countries that consumed the most turkey in 2006 were Israel, the United States, France, Italy, Germany, the United Kingdom and Canada.
7. Turkey isn't just for the holidays. Nearly half of U.S. consumers eat turkey at least once every two weeks, with more than a quarter eating turkey lunch meat.
8. Your furry friends are in on turkey, too. The turkey industry distributes 13 percent of its production to pet food.
9. Gobble gobble, but not for all turkeys. Only tom turkeys gobble, while hen turkeys make a clicking noise.
10. Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin's first meal on the moon was foil food packets of roasted turkey and the trimmings.
Cracking the wishbone code
You know the custom: After the family gobbles the Thanksgiving turkey, two diners (usually children, but often young-at-heart adults) tug at the prized V-shaped clavicle and make a wish. If you get the longer half, you win, and your wish will come true. It's a tradition that started way back when-at least 2,400 years ago!
The wishbone ritual was brought to the New World by English pilgrims. Back home, they got their good luck from chickens (and called the wishbone "merry thoughts"). When these pilgrims arrived in North America, they discovered the big-boned turkey. The rest, as they say, is history.
Tracing the custom back further, ancient Romans are said to have brought it to England. The Romans had adopted it from the Etruscans, the earliest civilization to live on the Italian peninsula, settling there between 900 and 800 B.C. The Etruscans practiced a form of divination involving a hen pecking at grains of corn scattered about in a circle divided into 20 sections with 20 letters, in line with the 20-letter Etruscan alphabet. (The Etruscans believed fowl were fortune-tellers because the hen squawked before she laid an egg and the rooster crowed before the new day.) As the fowl ate, a scribe would list the letters she pecked in order; the high priests would then interpret the findings.
When a fowl was killed, its collarbone was considered sacred and laid in the sun to dry. Anyone could pick it up and stroke it-not break it-and make a wish. Thus, the "wishbone" came to be. It is said that the Etruscans wished on unbroken wishbones for more than two centuries.
Etymologists (those who study the origin of words) claim that the expression "get a lucky break" comes from being the winner in a wishbone tug-of-war. Think of that on Thanksgiving, and know that when you tug on a wishbone, you're tugging on 2,000 years of history.
Answers to "What's for dinner"
Chicken liver pate
Chilled tomato juice
Barbecued spare ribs
Cream of mushroom
Rainbow trout almondine
Frog legs sautèed in garlic butter
Fresh sautèed sweetbreads
Sliced turkey with gravy, served with cranberry sauce
Coffee, tea or milk
Pumpkin pie or rice pudding with cinnamon
The waitress will be serving wine.
Peter Dring is a retired nature biologist and phenologist who lives in the Land O' Lakes area. To comment on this story, visit the "Outdoors" section of StarJournalNOW.com.
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