Each animal and plant has its own scientific name that is instantly recognized by naturalists in America, Europe, or anywhere else in the world. This binomial system of taxonomy dates back to the 1750s, when Swedish naturalist Carl von Linne (Latinized to Carolus Linneas) adopted Latin, the scholarly language of the day, to describe organisms.

Each organism is assigned a Genus name (capitalized) and a species name (lower case). Both names are usually italicized. Organisms with the same genus names are closely related (such as Canis for all dogs), while those with similar species names may share some common features, such as color or shape (as in rubrum for red).

By looking for the root meaning of the Latin names, students may deduce the characteristics of an organism. Or by using Latin words describing the characteristics of an "invented" animal, students can name the new species they create.