Weirdness of ICBN

Joe Laferriere josephl at CCIT.ARIZONA.EDU
Thu Jan 4 10:47:51 CST 1996

In response to a question from me, James Reveal said,

> The ICBN is a bit wierd here.

I'll certainly agree with that. Somebody should rewrite that thing cover
to cover so somebody can understand it. The tendency for decades has been
to stick ammendments in willy-nilly without coordinating them with
material already present. For example, one place mandates that any name
published on or after 1 Jan 1935 is not effectively published unless
accompanied by a Latin description or diagnosis. The requirement for a
description or diagnosis before 1935 is in a totally different place and
worded totally differently.
   There are also a lot of things assumed but not spelled out. I was
stunned last year when I submitted a paper to Taxon using the format I
was taught to use for citation of authors of infraspecific taxa, i.e.:

Planta hypothetica Smith var. erotica Jones.

I was told by the editors of Taxon that the "Smith" in the above example
is a violation of the ICBN. It took quite a bit of searching and
correspondence to convince me that they were right. The ICBN says that a
trinomial consists of a species name plus the abbreviation of the rank
(i.e. "var.") plus the infraspecific epithet. Jones, in the above
example, coined the entire trinomial not just the epithet. Smith had
nothing to do with the varietal name and the ICBN does not support
sticking his name in the middle of it. This practice is very common and
very useful, and I would support changing the ICBN to allow it. The fact
that it currently does not takes quite a bit of study to understand.
   I wish to express a warm "thank you" to Dr. Reveal for his lengthy and
thoughtful answer to my previous query.

Joe Laferriere

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