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If I wish to refer to, say, an Owl in the more generic form as a member of the biological order Strigiformes, what is the correct modification of the apparently plural word into a singular form?

For instance:

Upon entering the forest, Jonothan was immediately assaulted by an angry [singular strigiformes].


The Manduca Sexta is a [singular lepidoptera] which feeds on a [singular solanaceae] during the larval phase, normally a Tobacco plant.

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Why would you not use the singular form of the Latin word? They are not, generally, considered English words, but remain Latin words, right? – JeffSahol Aug 16 '12 at 16:33
up vote 5 down vote accepted

It depends:

  • One of the strigiformes is a strigiform. Or an owl.

  • One of the lepidoptera is a lepidopter:

    • 1881 Elwes tr. De S. Pinto’s How I crossed Afr. I. v. 120 ― This gigantic lepidopter, when young, feeds upon the grasses.
  • One of the solanaceae is a solanacean. Or a nightshade.

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Correct. And a strigiform (a member of Strigiformes), is an avis or bird (a member of Aves), an animal (a member of Animalia), and a eukaryote (a member of Eukaryota). – Mark Beadles Aug 16 '12 at 16:40
Yeah. You have to learn to recognize Latin and Greek plural markings (-es, -a, -ae, ...) and generate either their singular or an acceptable adjectival noun (like solanacean from solanacea). Any taxonomist can point you at manuals for naming conventions; there are a number, varying somewhat by phylum and kingdom, and occasionally by lower taxa. – John Lawler Aug 16 '12 at 16:56

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