Common Names

February 11, 2008
From: Sylvia Eggert

Do Nudibranchs have common names? For example, Bullinia Lineata, is this its species name and common name?

Sylvia Eggert

Eggert, S. F., 2008 (Feb 11) Common Names. [Message in] Sea Slug Forum. Australian Museum, Sydney. Available from

Dear Sylvia,

The example name you used is spelt Bullina lineata and only the first name begins with a capital letter. This is the species' scientific name and as you will see on the Fact Sheet about 'common names' it is the only name worth using if you want to be understood worldwide.

All animals have two words in their scientific name and we call this a binomial system - [bi = two; nomen = name]. The first word Bullina is the genus name - the genus being a group of closely related animals. If you look in the species list you will see that first names often repeat themselves. All the species with the same first name are closely realted to each other. The second name, in this case lineata is what we call the species epithet.  It shouldn't be called the species name because we don't go round talking about 'I found a 'lineata' yesterday' - or if we do we shouldn't - because lineata is used for many species and just means 'lined'. The animal's 'species name' is Bullina lineata which we usually write in italics. We can shorten it to B. lineata if its clear we are talking about a species of Bullina, but we shouldn't use such shorthand if the 'B' could be confused with all the other genera, such as Bulla or Bothryembrion, which start with B.

It's a system that works quite well because it means every species has a unique name. By including the genus name as well it means we can link related species together, much like many human cultures use surnames or family names.

Best wishes,
Bill Rudman

Rudman, W.B., 2008 (Feb 11). Comment on Common Names by Sylvia Eggert. [Message in] Sea Slug Forum. Australian Museum, Sydney. Available from

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