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Should we rename the Hitler beetle or the Mussolini butterfly? Scientists are shockingly divided.


Adolf Hitler (left) and Benito Mussolini (right) travel through Rome in an open-top car in May 1938. Some species discovered around this time were named after them. (Image credit: Getty Images)

Scientists are calling for animals with offensive names, such as those named after fascist dictators like Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini, to be renamed as soon as possible. The demands come after the organization in charge of naming these species ruled out scrapping the controversial names earlier this year to prevent confusion among researchers.

All known living and extinct species of animals, plants and microbes have a two-word scientific name, such as Homo sapiens for modern humans, which is used by every scientist who refers to that species. The first word (e.g., Homo) is the genus name, which is given to all closely related species, and the second word (e.g., sapiens) is given to a single species. (Species also have common names, which are easier to change. Some species have multiple common names — for example, orca and killer whale refers to the same species.)

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