Formality of Latin description

Wolfgang Wuster w.wuster at BANGOR.AC.UK
Sat Nov 18 11:15:01 CST 1995

On Wed, 8 Nov 1995, Joseph Laferriere wrote:

> There has been some talk on Taxacom lately about the pros and cons of
> Latin descriptions. There is one argument I have not seen addressed, i.e.
> that requiring a Latin diagnosis, holotype, etc., forces the writer to be
> more formal and careful in describing new species. Note that the rule has
> been effect in botany only since 1935. Before that, a description could
> be in Latin, English, German, Swahili, Klingon, or any other language. I have
> looked up some original descriptions from the early 19th Century. They
> often read something like "Mr. Foxworthy, a distinguished gardener from
> Birmingham, showed me a plant with yellow flowers, which he called `Flora
> flava.'" Poof! You have a new, validly published name, Flora flava
> Foxworthy ex Sims or whatever. Requiring the Latin description prevents
> this sort of thing, forcing the author to do some extra work and some
> extra thought in order to have a name become officially acceptible.

Requiring the description to be in Latin will not prevent this kind of
thing. What will prevent it is a requirement for a holotype to be
deposited in a major natural history collection, and a requirement to
publish description in peer-reviewed journals - the peer-review process
would hopefully weed out bad descriptions.

Wolfgang Wuster
School of Biological Sciences, University of Wales, Bangor, UK
e-mail: bss166 at

Thought for the day: If you see a light at the end of the tunnel,
it is probably a train coming your way.

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