[extropy-chat] When biology and english clash (was smallest genome)
avantguardian2020 at yahoo.com
Mon Oct 16 01:27:45 UTC 2006
> In the English language, the standard plural of
> virus is viruses. This
> is the most frequently occurring form of the plural,
> and refers to
> both a biological virus and a computer virus.
Biological classification is much to blame for the
confusion when it comes to the plurals of organisms.
In biology, the singular can refer to a single
individual organism i.e. the red fox got into our
chicken coop. Unfortunately the singular can also
refer to an entire species which is rarely comprised
of a single individual. i.e. The red fox is in danger
of going extinct due to the popularity of fox hunting.
Whilst the plural in a sloppy way, is used to describe
multiple organisms of the same species i.e. the foxes
have a den in the woods. Or multiple species i.e. the
foxes are in the order Carnivora or the foxes are
comprised of three related species.
When you get into microbiology it gets even worse
because all the old taxonomical rules start to break
The concept of species is rather ill defined for
bacteria and non-existent for viruses.
Since very seldomly is a microbiologist actually
dealing with a single bacterium (i.e. Robert diluted
down his suspension culture a million fold until but a
single bacterium was present in his microscope field.)
I and most microbiologists would not object to the
phrase: E. coli is a bacteria that lives in your gut
as opposed to Fred is
alt email: stuart"AT"ucla.edu
"More persons, on the whole, are humbugged by believing in nothing, than by believing too much."
- P. T. Barnum
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