When a new species is discovered, it needs to be described. This is known as species description. Today, this description is done in the form of an article or paper, published in a scientific journal. The scientific description has to follow strict rules. The person who is the author of the scientific article is also the person who is seen as the one who discovered the species. Usually, he or she can propose a name for the species. If the article has many authors, all of them are seen as discoverers of the species. Describing a species belongs to taxonomy.
History[change | change source]
Species descriptions have also been done in historic times. That way, Aristotle's History of Animals is probably among the first such publications. The book was published around 343 BC. In it, Aristole describes some of the creatures of his homeland, mostly fish and invertebrates. He also included a few mythical creatures, such as the manticore.
In the 13th century, the didactic text Konungs skuggsjá was written. It had many descriptions of whales, seals, and monsters of the Icelandic seas. The descriptions were short, and often contained errors. The descriptions include those of a mermaid, and of a large sea monster called Hafgufa. At first, the author did not want it, because he thought it was too big, but felt it was important enough to be included in his descriptions. Today, we know that the Hafgufa does not exist.