This card game uses latin and greek words to explore classification, adaptation, habitats and more, as well as building language skills.
Every species has its own unique scientific name that is chosen by the individual or team that discovers it. The name usually reflects something about the species itself.
Carl Linnaeus came up with the 'binomial' naming system, which means two names. Every species is known by two names - we are Homo sapiens (meaning man thinking, or wise).
You can come up with your own special species by combining together different latin or greek words and imagining what the species would look like and why the species might have developed those features through evolution.
How to create your own Special Species
There are three main ways:
- Download and print our special species card game (see below).
- Use our random word generator (see further below).
- Find your own words! We've listed some great words in the drop down menu's below, but you can also search for latin words using Google Translate, or take a look at this Wikipedia page for inspiration.
You can download the card game here: Special Species Name Cards (print one sided and cut each page into 9 cards). Make sure to also download our handy guide to using the cards here: Guide To Special Species.
Pick 3, 4 or 5 of these words and put them together to create a whole new species! The best combinations are Species, Colour/Number and Body Part.
For example, I might select Spider White Beard (arach, alb, pogo), which could represent a spider with a white beard, or a white spider with a beard, or a white spider that lives inside beards! You could then give it the scientific name ‘Arachna albapogo’ (don't be afraid to add vowels to make the word sound better).
Latin words in categories
English Latin Usage Blind caec Caecilians are tropical worm-like amphibians which have small or nonexistent eyes Broad lati The 'lats' are wide muscles that attach along the spine Circular cycl Cyclamen is a genus of plants that have a large spherical underground structure called a tuber Crawling reptans Reptiles are known to crawl along the ground Curled crispus Chondrus crispus is a red algae that has curled structures Dead necro A necrophage is an organism that consumes dead animal flesh Deep profund To have a profound understanding is for your understanding to be deep Fast tachy Tachycardia is a condition where the heart beats quicker than usual Flat platy A platypus has a flat foot Hard dur To be durable is to be resistant to damage Hidden crypt Cryptogam are plants with hidden reproductive features Hole trema Monotremes are a group of animals that have one hole for excreting all waste Large macr Macropodidae is a family of marsupials that have big feet Light photo Photosynthesis is the process of using light as an energy source Lying back supin To be supine to the be lying on your back New neo A neonate is the scientific name given to a newborn child Pretty bell Atropa belladonna, aka deadly nightshade, is a pretty plant that can be used as a poison Rough asper Streblus asper is known as the sandpaper tree Round teres Terrestrial animals live on the ground Sharp oxys Talostolida teres is a species of sea snail that is round Shining gano Ganoderma is a genus of fungi that is known to have a shiny edge Short brachy Brachyplatystoma is a genus of catfish which short flat mouths Slender lepto Leptospira is a long and thin bacteria that can cause severe illness Slow brady Bradycardia is a condition where the heart beats slower than usual Small micro Microbes are small organisms Smaller min Brookesia minima is the name of the Madagascan dwarf chameleon Soft moll To mollycoddle is to treat too softly Spiny echino An echidna is a spiny anteater Star aster An asterisk is a little star used to indicate that extra information is available elsewhere Sweet dulci To have a dulcet tone is to produce sweet soft music Tall altissim Solidago altissima is among the tallest species of the Solidago genus of plants Terrible dino Dinosaur means terrible lizard Thick pachy Pachycephalosaurus was a thick-headed-lizard Torn lacer To lacerate is to tear something Twisted ileum The ileum is the final part of the human small intestine Wooly ulo Ulomyia fuliginosa is a species of fly that has wooly, fluffy wings
English Latin Usage Bean fab The scientific name for a broad bean is Vicia faba, which is why it is also sometimes called the fava, or faba, bean Bear urs Ursa major is a constellation of stars known as the Great Bear Bird avi / ornith Aviation is all about making things fly Cat feli Cats are commonly known as felines Dog cani / cyno Dogs are commonly known as canines Fish ichthy / pisc An ichthyosaur is a prehistoric giant fish-lizard Flower foli The term foliage means all the leaves of a plant Fox vulp In the popular childrens game Pokemon, a fox-like creature is called Vulpix Frog ran The common frog is called Rana temporaria Goat trago A Greek tragedy is often referred to as a 'goat-song' Hawk hiera Hera was the ancient Greek Queen of the Gods Horse equ / hippo Horse-like animals like horses, zebras, asses and mules are commonly known as equines Lion leo Leo is a constellation and zodiac sign which is represented as a Lion Lizard saur A dinosaur literally means terrible-lizard Man homo Homo can mean man or same Monkey simi Simians refer to primates that include monkeys, apes and humans Mouse muri This is a well-used prefix to refer to mice or mice-like creatures Pig porc Pig meat is referred to as pork Plant phyto Phyto is a prefix that refers to anything related to or coming from plants Sheep ovi Ovis is the genus of six species of sheep Snake ophi Ophiuchus is a large constellation that looks like a man grasping a snake Spider arach Arachnaphobia is the fear of spiders Tree arbor Arboreal creatures are ones that live in trees Viper echis Echis is a genus of vipers of which there is around 12 species Wolf lupus Lupus literally means wolf. A werewolf in the popular book series Harry Potter is called Professor Lupin worm helminth Helminth is a general term meaning worm but includes lots of different species
English Latin Usage Black melan Melanin is a pigment in the skin, hair and eyes that gives it colour Blue cyan Cyan is made by mixing equal amounts of green and blue light Colour chrom Chromium is an element that was named so because it makes colourful compounds Gold aur An aurora is a natural light display in the sky. It means 'shines like gold' Golden chrys Chrysanthrax is a genus of bee flies that have a golden body Green chlor / verd Chlorophyll is the name of the pigment found in plants to give them a green colour Grey polio Polio is a disease that affects the 'grey' matter of the spinal colour Pale pallid Pallid literally means a pale face Purple iod Iodine is an element which is dark purple solid and can be heated to become a deep violet liquid or gas Rainbow iris In Greek myth, Iris is the goddess of the rainbow Red erythr / rhodo / ruber Erythrocyte is the scientific name for a red blood cell Silver arg The country Argentina gets it's name because it borders a river called 'The River of Silver' White alb / leuc Leukaemia is a disease which affects white blood cells Yellow flav / lute To be flavescent is to turn yellow
English Latin Usage One mono / un A monobrow is having one eyebrow Two bi / di Bipedal is walking on two feet Three tri Triceratops had a three horned face Four quadr Quadrapeds have four feet Five pent Pentremites are an extinct fossils that have five distinct grooves Six hexa A hexapod has six legs Seven hepta . septem Coccinella septempunctata is the name of the seven-spotted ladybird Eight oct Ludwigia hexapetala is a water primrose with six petals Nine novem Dasypus novemcinctus is the name of the nine-banded armadillo Ten deci A decade is ten years Eleven undecim Un + decim = 11 Twelve dodeca A dodecahedron is a shape with twelve flat faces Hundred centi / hect There are 100 centimeters in a meter, and 100cm long by 100cm wide is known as a hectare, i.e. 100cm2 Thousand kilo / milli A kilometer is 1 thousand meters. A millimeter is 1 thousandth of a meter Single haplo Haplo is used in genetics to talk about one single bit of DNA from one parent Both amphi An amphibian lives both in the water and on land Half hemi The earth has a northern and a southern hemisphere Double diplo A diplodocus was a dinosaur with a double boned structure in its tail Equal iso An isosceles triangle has three equal sides Greater maj Something major is something big Greatest maxim The maximum number is the greatest number Many multi / poly Polygons are shapes with multiple corners or sides
- Body Parts
English Latin Usage Ankle talus A talon is the claw of a bird of prey Arm brachi Brachiopods are shelled animals that have upper and lower surfaces/arms rather than left and right surfaces (like bivalves) Back dors Sharks have dorsal fins, i.e. fins on their backs Back of the head occip The occipital protuberance is the little bony lump on the back of the human head Beak rostr Some reptiles have a rostral scale on the tip of their snout Beard barb / pogo Pogona barbata is commonly known as the bearded dragon Belly ventr Your ventral side is your front including your stomach Big toe hallux A Hallux valgus is the scientific name for a bunion, a deformity of the big toe Body corp The corpus callosum is the body of tissue that connects the left side of the brain to the right side Brain cerebro The cerebellum is a main part of the brain Breastbone stern The human breastbone is called the sternum Chest pect The human chest is made up of pectoral muscles Ear ot Otariidae are a family of seals which have noticeable ears Egg ovo An ovum is a human embryonic egg Eye omm / opt The optic nerve connects the eye to the brain Fat adipo Adipose tissue is fatty tissue Feather plum Plummage is the collective term for features Finger dactyl Polydactyl is the condition of having more than the normal number of fingers Foot ped / pod Ornithopods were dinosaurs with feet like birds Hair capill / nema Capillaries are thin, hair-like vessels for blood Hoof ungul Ungulates are a group of animals with hooves Horn cera A rhinoceros has a horned-nose Leaf lamella / phyll Chlorophyll comes from the latin 'chlor' which means green, and 'phyll' which means leaf Lower jaw mandib The mandible is the name of the human lower jaw Lung pulmo Pulmonary arteries are blood vessels that feed into the lungs Mouth bucca / stom Barbucca elongata is a fish which a beard (barb) around its mouth (bucca) Nose rhin A rhinoceros has a horned-nose Pouch marsupium Marsupials are categorised as having pouches for their young Scale lepid Lepidoptera are butterflies and moths. They have scale-wings Shell conch A conch is a common name given to different medium to large shells Shoulder omo Omophoita is a genus of flea beetles that has a light colour on its shell that looks like shoulders Skull crani The cranium is the skull Spot macula Cypraea macula is a species of mollusc that has lots of spots Tentacle cirr Barnacles are known as Cirripedia as they are curl-footed Tongue gloss Tsetse flies (Glossinidae) are known as tongue-flies because of their large tongue-like sucker Tooth dont Vampire bats belong to a group called Desmodontinae, meaning mouse-sized teeth Wing pter Lepidoptera are butterflies and moths. They have scale-wings
English Latin Usage Clear water lymph Lymphatic fluid is a clear liquid that moves around the body Dawn eo In Greek mythology, Eos is the goddess of the dawn Fire pyro Pyromania is a disorder characterised by the intentional and repeated setting of fires Heat therm A thermometer measures heat Hot calor A calorie is a unit of energy needed to raise the temperature of one gram of water by one degree Of mountains montan Centaurea montana is a plant that grows in mountainous regions Of the sea maritim Comes from the latin 'mare' meaning 'sea' and '-timus' which means inmost. On the ground chamae Chamaedorea is a genus of palm trees which means gift on the ground. Rock petr To be petrified is to be so frightened that one is unable to move - like a rock Sand ammo Ammophila is a genus of plants that grows on coastal sand dunes Stone lith Lithium is an eleme Sun sol / helio Lithothamnon erianceum is a a species of coralline algae which has a Scottish local name of 'hedgehog stones' Water aqua / hydr Make sure you stay hydrated Wood lign Limnoria lignorum is an aquatic 5mm organism that tunnels into wood and can destroy wooden structures
What about Plants?
Plants use the same naming conventions as animals, so you could run the same activity but create plants instead! All you need to do is ignore the 'species' words.
For example, you might select Curly White Beard (crispus, alb, pogo), which could represent a plant that seems to have white fluffy bits coming off it - something like cotton? You could then give it the scientific name ‘Crispus albapogo’.
Here's a great archive of some definitions/origins of plant names: http://www.plantlives.com/plant_botanical_def_list.php