Can You Guess the Scientific Name of These Common Animals?

By: Maria Trimarchi
Image: Shutterstock

About This Quiz

How well do you know the scientific names of common animals? Take this quiz to find out exactly how much you know.

So, what is a scientific name? Well, just about everything has a scientific name. Most of the time, we commoners use the common names of things because those funky Latin names can be far too confusing. But scientists like to show off their knowledge by using the scientific names for things. Even if you are not a scientist, you might know the scientific names of these common animals.

Scientific names may also be called Latin names, binomial names, or binomial nomenclature. The reason that the word "binomial" enters into the equation is that the scientific name is a two-part identifier (the prefix "bi" means "two). These two components are the Latin name for the genus or the type of species that the animal belongs to, and the Latin name for the species itself. So, as an example, a common house cat is referred to scientifically as a "Felis catus" - "felis" for belonging to the feline genus, and "catus" for, well, cat.

We've compiled a quiz based on 35 scientific names for common animals. Can you name them all?

What is the scientific name for a chicken?

There are more than 60 breeds of the Gallus gallus domesticus, better known as the domesticated chicken -- or, actually any of the fowl that are descended from their wild ancestors, the red junglefowl. Today, there are more than 25 billion chickens in the world, making them the most populous of any bird species.

What is the scientific name for a cat?

Felis catus is the scientific name for the domesticated house cats we love as pets. It's believed the ancient Egyptians were the first to domesticate our feline friends thousands of years ago, and today there are 74,059,000 cats demanding food in homes around the U.S.

What is the scientific name for a housefly?

It's believed the housefly, or Musca domestica, evolved sometime in the last roughly 66 million years. Although adults only live for about 2 to 4 weeks, they're still the most common fly found worldwide. And they're also gross -- everything they touch becomes contaminated with feces and pathogens.

What is the scientific name for a dog?

It's believed humas domesticated gray wolves some time between 27,000 to 40,000 years ago. And today, there are a total of 69,926,000 dogs -- also known as Canis lupus familiaris, living as human companions in the United States.

What is the scientific name for a gorilla?

The Gorilla gorilla -- more commonly known as the western gorilla, is considered a critically endangered species, There are two subspecies of Western gorilla: Gorilla gorilla gorilla, commonly called the Western lowland gorilla; and, Gorilla gorilla diehli, which is known as the Cross River gorilla.

What is the scientific name for Canada geese?

Branta canadensis, which we commonly call Canada geese, are, as you might guess, native to Canada -- as well as Mexico and the United States. Their flying V formation makes them easy to spot -- and they'll cover as many as 1,500 miles in a single day.

What is the scientific name for llamas?

Although you'll see them commercially and privately owned in the U.S., llamas -- scientifically known as Lama glama, are native to the Andes mountains. Llamas have been an important part of the native culture of the Andes region since the Pre-Columbian era, for meat, fuel, leather and wool, as well as for transportation and as pack animals.

What is the scientific name for the great white shark?

As Hooper says in the movie, "Jaws": It's a Carcharodon carcharias. It's a great white. Despite this shark's reputation, and despite being found in every major ocean, scientists don't yet know very much about this massive and voracious predator. And although the great white has a history of attacks on humans, you're still more than 30 times more likely to be bitten by a dog than a shark.

What is the scientific name for the American beaver?

Best known for their flat tail and their dam building skills, the beaver, called Castor canadensis, is the largest rodent in North America. They can be a nuisance, and in the 19th century they were nearly hunted to extinction, but they are important to our ecosystems.

What is the scientific name for the monarch butterfly?

Danaus plexippus, or as we commonly know it, the monarch butterfly, is a colorful (orange, black and white) butterfly that feeds on the nectar from milkweeds (although they also like lilac, goldenrod, and other flowers, too). Every year, monarchs migrate 3,000 miles from Canada and the U.S. to central Mexico (although some migrate to the California coast) for the winter.

What is the scientific name for a tiger?

Panthera tigris -- the tiger -- is the largest of the big cats. Although what it can boast in size it can't in numbers -- tigers are facing extinction. There are several sub-species of Panthera tigris, including Bengal tigers, Indochinese tigers, Siberian tigers, South China tigers and Sumatran tigers. Three additional sub-species -- Bali tigers, Caspian tigers and Javan tigers -- are believed to be extinct.

What is the scientific name for an alpaca?

There are actually two breeds of Vacugna pacos -- Suri and Huacaya. They're bred for meat, and also for their fiber, which is valuable and used to knit clothing and other items. Of the 3.5 million alpacas in the world, as many as three-quarters of them live in Peru.

What is the scientific name for the American alligator?

Alligator mississippiensis, known as an American alligator -- or just "gator," can be found in freshwater lakes, marshes, rivers and swamps primarily in the southeastern United States. This reptile was once an endangered species but has recovered; don't confuse it with the American crocodile, which is still considered a threatened species.

What is the scientific name for the American black bear?

If you see a bear in the wild in the U.S., the odds are very good it's a black bear. Although Ursus americanus, the American black bear, may be the smallest bear in North America, it's the most widely dispersed across the continent -- it can be found across Canada, most of the continental U.S. and Alaska, and even as far south as central Mexico.

What is the scientific name for a common raven?

The Corvus corax, known as the common raven, has been a part of many different mythologies around the world , sometimes appearing as a playful trickster, or as a bird of death. They are known to live up to 20 years or so in the wild, and can be as big as a hawk. But what they may be best known for -- no, not their caw -- is their intelligence. Corvids are smart, known to invent and use tools as well as engage in play.

What is the scientific name for a rabbit?

Rabbits have been hopping around Great Britain since the 12th century, and can be both wild or domesticated as pets. Or, even, fictional: just like other Oryctolagus cuniculus, Thumper, in the animated film, "Bambi," thumps to warn others of nearby danger.

What is the scientific name for the squirrels running around your town?

Sciurus carolinensis, known as the eastern gray squirrel, is that bushy-tailed rodent frantically burying more food than they'll ever be able to dig back up in your yard. Eastern grays are tree squirrels, and are native to the U.S.

What is the scientific name for a giant panda?

The Ailuropoda melanoleuca, the giant panda, dines almost exclusively on bamboo. Giant pandas don't really have any natural predators other than humans, and their population is vulnerable because of poaching and habitat loss -- in fact, it's estimated there are only about 1,600 in the wild in its native native to south central China (and there are a few living in zoos, worldwide, too).

What is the scientific name for a white-winged dove?

Often mistaken for a mourning dove, the white-winged dove, known as Zenaida asiatica, is mostly a resident of the American Southwest, although they're becoming more commonly seen -- and heard (whoo-OOO-oo, ooo-oo) -- in Texas, Florida and across the southern states, and beyond, in recent years. It's the primary pollinator for the giant saguaro cactus, which is native to the Sonoran Desert.

What is the scientific name of the raccoon in your yard?

Raccoons are one of the greatest adapters to human civilization. These "trash pandas" are perfectly at home living among (and feeding on the garbage of) humanity.

What is the scientific name for a Daddy longlegs?

Did you know that the Pholcus phalangioides, the Daddy longlegs, is an arachnid but not a spider? They're actually more closely related to a scorpion, and it's estimated through fossil records that they've been around for at least 400 million years.

What is the scientific name for a domesticated goat?

Capra aegagrus hircus is the scientific name for a goat, which is believed to have been domesticated 10,000 years ago from wild goats in the region of eastern Anatolia (which is modern day Turkey) and western Iran. Still today, goats can be raised and kept in almost all habitats -- as long as there's a little bit of grass for grazing.

What is the scientific name for a cobra?

Cobras are native to Africa, India, Indonesia, the Middle East and Southeast Asia. Naja naja, the Indian cobra, is found throughout Pakistan and India, as well as Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal and Sri Lanka -- and possibly, believe herpetologists, in parts of Afghanistan. The Indian cobra is the most popular snake among "snake charmers" -- although the snakes are really dancing along to the movements not the song (they're deaf).

What is the scientific name for a Rhesus monkey?

These monkeys are the red-faced, red-bottomed primates who went to space before humans did. The Rhesus macaque, Macaca mulatta, is said to be named after the Greek king of Thrace, Rhesos.

What is the scientific name for you, a human?

Today, there are 7.6 billion homo sapiens -- humans -- living on our planet. "Homo" is the human genus, which in addition to H. Sapiens also includes the extinct Neanderthals (and many other extinct hominids).

What is the scientific name for a white-tailed deer?

Odocoileus virginianus, commonly known as the white-tailed deer, can be found in almost every state in the continental United States, as well as throughout most of North America and South America -- in fact, there are numerous sub-species classified by the regions each is native to, such as O. v. dakotensis, which are white-tailed deer of the Dakotas or Northern Plains.

What's the scientific name for the mouse you found in your house?

Mus musculus, the common house mouse, is usually found in houses, as their name suggests, as well as barns and other cultivated fields and wooded areas. As they live among humans, mice are responsible for contributing to the spread of diseases including bubonic plague and typhus.

What is the scientific name for a zebra?

Homarus americanus is the lobster found along the Atlantic coast, from the Canadian province of Labrador, to the state of New Jersey -- you might call it a Maine lobster (or maybe just Newberg or Thermidor). American lobsters aren't red until after you cook them; when they're alive they're dark bluish-green to greenish-brown.

What's the scientific name for the two-toed sloth?

The two-toed sloth is larger and faster than three-toed sloths, and the Choloepus hoffmanni, Hoffman's two-toed sloth from Central and South America, is no exception. These mammals are arboreal, which means they carry out almost everything -- from eating and sleeping, to mating and giving birth -- while hanging from tree limbs.

Which is the scientific name for the trapdoor spider?

If its name seems familiar somehow, this spider, a trapdoor spider, is named in honor of rock musician Neil Young. It was discovered by East Carolina University professors in Alabama in 2007.

What is the scientific name for the upside-down jellyfish?

While both Henry Rollins and Frank Zappa have jellyfish named for them (Amphinema rollinsi and Phialella zappai, respectively), it's the Cassiopea andromeda that is the upside-down jellyfish -- called such because it swims with its mouth facing downward, like a true jelly does. They enjoy shallow water, such as a lagoon or intertidal sandflats, where they sit, mouth-down and tentacles up, to enjoy the sun (behavior that gets them frequently mistaken for sea anemones).

What is the scientific name for the bald eagle?

The bald eagle, Haliaeetus leucocephalus, is native to most parts of North America, and is the national bird -- and national animal -- of the United States. Once on the brink of extinction in the U.S., the species has recovered enough that it was officially removed from the official List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife in 2007.

What is the scientific name for the red fox?

Vulpes vulpes, known more commonly as red foxes, are about the size of a small dog. They're territorial, and prey on small mammals such as rabbits and voles -- but they won't turn down a beetle, bird or fruit snack.

What is the scientific name for a leopard?

These ambush predators, leopards typically prey and feed on mid-sized animals such as deer, pigs, and on domestic livestock -- although they're not above scavenging (stealing) from other animals. There are nine sub-species of Panthera pardus, classified on where the big cat is native.

What is the scientific name for a reindeer?

You know Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, and Blitzen -- and, of course, Rudolph, but did you know that they're also known as Rangifer tarandus? Reindeer, or caribou depending on where you live, play a big role in the Santa Claus myth, but they're real animals who really do live in cold, northern climates, including northern Europe, Siberia, and North America.

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