BioCode & tautonyms

John McNeill johnmn at COMPUSERVE.COM
Thu May 28 07:04:52 CDT 1998

Manmeet Singh wrote:

>One aspect of BioCode is rather strange. We are attempting to formulate =
>Code but still want to retain special provisions for special groups, as
for example =

>Tautonyms would not be acceptable only for plants. Are, we not again to
the square =

>one? What real difference does it incorporate from existing diverse Code=
>in present form seems to be essay on different Codes, with no unified
approach in =

>sight. Nothing would be achieved unless we have uniform provisions for a=
groups =

>of organisms, not retroactive, but atleast operative from the date the
BioCode =

>becomes operative. The Draft BioCode (1997) does not give that assurance=

Uniform provisions covering the major nomenclatural principles are indeed=

essential if the BioCode is to be effective.  I believe that the Draft
BioCode substantially achieves this - it certainly prescribes a common
approach in the two areas of major difference among the Codes (co-ordinat=
status in the family, genus and species groups, and the concept of
secondary homonomy unique to the zoological code - see  McNeill, J.  1997=
=2E =

Key issues to be addressed.  In: D.L.
Hawksworth (ed.),  The new bionomenclature: the BioCode debate.  Biology
International Special Issue 34: 17-40. (contact iubs at on=

availability).. =

Although, as a botanist, I wish tautonyms had never been prohibited, to
permit tautonyms in plant names now would involve an enormous degree of
instability.  Moreover, contrary to Manmeet Singh's suggestion, this is n=
an issue in which it is easy to provide a common rule even for the future=
=2E =

True, if I describe a new plant genus, Manmeetius say, then there is no
real reason for me not to be permitted to call one of its new species
Manmeetius manmeetius - but this is a rare phenomenon.  The common
situation where the possiblity of an autonym arises is in taking up
epithets based on old generic names, e.g. Linnaeus described the almost
cosmopolitan common reed as Arundo Phragmites; to-day the species is
considered to belong to the genus Phragmites.

Clearly we must continue to prohibit in the future the taking up of the
tautonym Phragmites phragmites (because of the enormous number of  name
changes that would be involved).  So what could be permitted in the futur=
 Only, I would suppose, a tautonym formed from a NEW generic name.  This
would certainly be possible but it would cover such a rare situation, tha=
I wonder if the total prohibition of tautonyms in names of botanical taxa=

is not simpler to remember - even if it is a small breach in the uniformi=
that both Manmeet Singh and the International Committee on Bionomenclatur=

John McNeill =

  John McNeill, Director Emeritus, Royal Ontario Museum, =

  100 Queen's Park, Toronto, Ontario, M5S 2C6, Canada.
  [Tel. and fax # 416-586-5744]  e-mail: johnm at

  From 19 April - 5 June 1998: at Royal Botanic Garden, Inverleith Row,
  Edinburgh, EH3 5LR, Scotland, UK.  Fax: +44-131-248-2901
  E-mail will be forwarded, but replies will be from johnmn at
  Urgent telephone number: +44-131-248-2855

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