Who names animals?

This is actually 3 connected questions:

A) Who determines an animal’s official Latin name? (Is this the discoverer?)

B) What are the procedures for naming an animal?

C) How does one determine that a given animal hasn’t already been named?

The reason I was wondering was that I have recently discovered a small (10cm max length) animal living in Saudi Arabia. The things initially looks like a worm but when examined it closely is actually a snake. About as thick as a match-stick and coal-black. There is a tiny, flickering tongue that is so small as to be barely visible. The thing is a burrower and moves like a snake (wriggling instead of expanding and contracting like a worm) when it is on the surface.
Anyway, an interesting beast that lacks any kind of a name, even among the locals. The Arabs call it a worm but that isn’t right at all.
I’m unable to find any references to this thing at all, on-line or otherwise. Admittedly I don’t have access to many of the herpetology references that would be handy si I’ll probably wind up looking like an idiot over this question but there it is anyway. S


Does this and this look anything like your snake? It’s Ramphotyphlops braminus, a species of worm snake, and this page says they’ve been introduced into Saudi Arabia (once you get past all the Russian stuff…).

That is either my snake or its twin brother. :o Well, now I know why it isn’t shown anywhere as a Saudi animal. We have been finding these things for the past few years in our back garden. They are quite interesting to look at but are extremely shy. The only reason we’ve seen them at all is due to my wife being a keen gardner and occasionally digging them up.
There are quite a few weird animals around here. A few months ago we found triops in a seasonal mud-hole. Now there is a REALLY interesting beast. :slight_smile: I read that these were a protected species in the UK but the place we found had a thriving population.
Thank you very much for this. (Even if it isn;t a new species! S)


Whoever names an animal is typically whoever first publishes a description in an appropriate format (that person may or may not be its discoverer). The procedures for naming animals are dictated by the International Society of Zoological Nomenclature (you can read a draft of the 1995 rules and such here. And, one determines that a given animal hasn’t already been named by doing lots and lots of research. One also has to watch out for picking names that are already in use.

Thank you for that. As you say, “lots and lots of research.” I had looked through quite a few articles/books and periodicals for that snake-thing without finding a word about it. As it was introduced, I never would have seen anything on native species. I’m still unsure how JayJay found it so quickly.

Thanks again

Well…I thought it sounded like a worm snake in the first place, so I googled for “worm snake” and got the genus. Then I googled “+Ramphotyphlops +black +Arabia” and got that Russian page. Then I googled the full binomial and got the pics of it. :slight_smile:

Just as a bit of curious trivia, I’ll note that the Brahminy Blind Snake ( also called the “flower-pot snake” for its habit of being shipped unawares in potting soil and with various ornamental and non-ornamental plants ) is the most widely distributed reptile, let alone snake, in the world.

The reason stems both from its habitus ( soil = ease of accidental transportation ) and the fact that, quite unusually for a snake, it is parthenogenetic - they’re all female and one is enough to start a colony :).

For a reference guide to that part of the world, try Al Leviton’s Handbook of Middle East Amphibians and Reptiles ( Oxford, 1992 ). Amazon has a used copy for $200 :smiley: :

  • Tamerlane

The book sounds nice but I’m not sure I like the snake that much. :eek: Parthenogenetic huh? How weird. And lives in potting soil. No wonder we find them where we do. I think I’ll try locking one of these up in an aquarium with some plants and soil and see if they breed. Fascinating things and they are extremely quick.