Latin : As it pertains to mayflies and their classification

Whenever my friends and I get into a really deep conversation about mayflies some type of Latin topic or disagreement is usually brought up at some point. Through the years I have realized that very few anglers actually understand the classification system used to differentiate different mayfly species and this usually leads to the age old excuse of not needing to know. Hence the old "I know the brown one from the black ones" statement.

Learning Latin, and the vast majority of mayfly species can make things complicated to some but once you come to understand it even on a basic level you'll realize it's not as difficult as it seems and that it will actually help a great deal when you reach a certain point in your angling evolution. I'm going to try to break it down for you.

The classification we use today, also known as Systema Naturae, developed by a scientist named Carl Linnaeus in the eighteenth century is the first  recognized attempt to classify plants and animals. Taxonomists still use this system as a basis for classification of all plant and animal species. Taxonomy is basically the science of classification.

To classify a species we break them down into seven groupings which give you the full picture of the species which ultimately will tell someone a lot about that species without having to know a lot about it. For example, the full Latin classification of the Hendrickson mayfly is Animalia Arthropoda Insecta Ephemeroptera Ephemerellidae Ephemerella subvaria. Lets together see how we come to the naming of the Hendrickson.

Now lets talk about what each of these seven groupings are and what they represent. The first of the seven is the kingdom. Life is assigned to one of five kingdoms which include Monera, Proteria, Plantae, Fungai, and Animalia. For our purposes and for obvious reasons, the kingdom we will always use will be Animalia as it includes all animal life.

The second of the groupings is for major groupings or phylum derived from the Greek word phylon meaning race. There are four phylum we have to choose from. Annelida (worms and leeches), Arthropoda (arthropods), Chordata (vertebrates), and Mollusca (mollusks). Again, in our case this will always be the same. The phylum all mayflies belong to is Arthropoda (Arthropods).

The next classification grouping is class. The five classes in the Arthropoda phylum are Arachnida (spiders), Collembola (springtails), Crustacea-Malacostraca (crayfish,scuds and sow bugs), Crustacea-Maxillopoda (barnacles and copepods), and Insecta (all insects). In our case we will be choosing Insecta. The Insecta class includes all  known insects broken down into 13 orders which are the next grouping in the classification process.

The next grouping in the classification process is order. This is where we have to start breaking it down ourselves as amateur entomologists. There are 13 orders is the Insecta class and they are as follows:
Coleoptera (Beetles)
Diptera (True Flies)
Ephemeroptera (Mayflies)
Hemiptera (True Bugs)
Hymenoptera (Ants,Wasps,Bees)
Lepidoptera (Moths)
Megaloptera (Dobsonflies, Alderflies, Hellgrammites)
Odonata-Anisoptera (Dragonflies)
Odonata-Zygoptera (Damselflies)
Orthoptera (Grasshoppers)
Plecoptera (Stoneflies)
Trichoptera (Caddisflies)
Neuroptera (Lacewings, Mantidflies,Ant-lions)
As you might guess, we would be choosing Ephemeroptera as our order if we are trying to name the Hendrickson because that order includes all mayflies.

The next classification category is family of which there are 23 within the Ephemeroptera order. They are as follows:
Ameletidae (brown duns)
Baetidae (blue-winged olives)
Baetiscidae (armored mayflies)
Caenidae (white death)
Ephemerellidae (hendricksons,sulphurs,PMD)
Ephemeridae (hexes, large drakes)
Heptegeniidae (march browns, quill gordons, cahills)
Isonychiidae (slate drakes)
Leptohyphidae (tricos)
Leptophlebiidae (blue quills)
Metretopodidae (pseudo-gray drakes)
Polymitarcyidae (white flies)
Potomanthidae (golden drakes)
Siphlonuridae (gray drakes)

Because we are choosing the Hendrickson as our guinea pig, we will be using the family Ephemerellidae. After family, the next classification category is genus. This is where it starts to get complicated because with practice, it can be relatively easy to identify family but genus can be quite confusing so bear with me, this is where you will certainly have to begin doing your research if you're trying to make an identification. Within the Ephemerellidae family there are 14 genera (the plural for genus) and they are as follows:

Because we already know the genus is Ephemerella we will be using it to further locate the species, which is the next and last step in the classification process. Now if you've been doing your research along with me you will learn that the genus Ephemerella has 19 species and I'm not going to list them all because we already know which one we are choosing : subvaria.

An important note, when we call a mayfly by its proper name rather than common name we include the genus and the species. When referring to text its important to capitalize the genus and leave the species lowercase, a pet peeve many entomologist have. If you followed along you may now understand at least how we name our bugs and part of how we come to those names. I hope this helps.

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