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B.J.Tindall bti at DSMZ.DE
Thu Oct 14 08:42:12 CDT 1999

Since the BioCode listserver is closing down I would like to pass on the
following information via TAXACOM. John McNeill (via the BioCode
listserver) has brought up the topic of how do bacteriologists view the
BioCode. I can refer you to several recent articles on changes to the
Bacteriological Code which were discussed in Sydney (together with other

As John pointed out bacteriology accepted a radical change in establishing
a new starting date for bacterial (prokaryotic) nomenclature, which
released us from the burden of digging through much of the earlier
bacteriological literature, some of which goes back almost 200 years, and
should be regarded as historically interesting, but of somewhat dubious
value when problems arise. Whereas botany (and zoology I assume) has not
accepted the principle of the new starting date, bacteriology did this from
1980, so there is essentially little debate on this topic in bacteriology,
because we already accepted the necessity of such a "radical" step.
Various aspects of the BioCode, particularly some of the harmonised terms
will probably be adopted in bacteriology, and a report of the Sydney
meeting will appear in the "International Journal of Systematic
Bacteriology", which changes its name to the "International Journal of
Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology" from 1.1.2000.
Bacteriology is currently able to publish complete lists of all the names
of taxa which are considered by bacteriologists to be "validly published"
i.e. those which enter into use in bacteriology. There are comprehensive
lists of all bacterial names available via the Internet, or via published
works, but those name which do not qualify as being "validly published"
have no status in bacterial nomenclature, although there is the possibility
of reviving names should this be considered to be desirable. One major
problem remains in bacteriology, and that is avoiding duplication of
generic names already in use in botany and zoology. Although the
Bacteriological Code already tries to avoid the use of generic names of
fungi, protozoa, and algae, until recently it was not easy to gain rapid
access to such lists. This has changed with the publication of several
works on the Internet, including the Index to Organism Names (Biosis), the
ING database, and the NCU database, all of which are valuable works and
have become essential reference works in cross checking duplication of
names in use in bacteriology. Many thanks to all those involved in getting
these lists together and the lists available for bacteria on the Internet.
Having participated at the meetings of the BioCode I can say that it was
much more than an academic exercise and we all learnt a lot from eachother.
Certainly several of the proposed changes to the Bacteriological Code are a
direct result of discussions among members of the Commission. It is
interesting to note one principle behind the BioCode, of avoiding
duplicating the names of taxa, is one which zoologists and botanists were
very much aware of a century ago, but they did not have access to the
methods of rapid and extensive information transfer. Now we have the
technology and it does not seem sensible to loose sight of this goal. One
should never loose sight of the fact that Darwin and Wallace's propsals for
evolution where opposed with vigour a century ago and the periodic system
of the elements was resisted by the chemists of the day. Whatever happens
to the BioCode only time will determine. I can only express my thanks to
all those who made possible and participated at the "Egham meetings" of the
BioCode. While John states that the BioCode is on a low gas in botany and
zoology, much of what the BioCode was trying to do is in place in
bacteriology, so we are actually "cooking" with the same gas, but then you
could say that our pots are smaller!
Brian Tindall

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