Farewell to species (but not yet!)

Don McAllister mcall at SUPERAJE.COM
Fri Feb 4 10:23:26 CST 2000

Doug Yanega wrote:

> Don Colless wrote:
>  Simple annoyance
> that a person should be required to engage in some actual *research* into
> the history and status of a given taxon name in order to retrieve all the
> available information. Everybody finds it frustrating (myself included,
> admittedly), and the lazy man's solution is to require that all taxon names
> are fixed and immutable, which IS part of the "uninomial and rankless"
> paradigm that I've heard promoted.

I think the charge that our nomenclature system is forever changing and that
poses difficulties to retrieving information on species is a valid one.  The
proposal that there be a more immutable name attached to the binomial system is
not unreasonable one.  And indeed it would be worth some effort to think out
and possibly implement such a parallel 'permanent' uninomial.  I put
'permanent' in quotes because there will have to be some exceptions to
permanency in any system.

What it is also necessary to communicate that the classification system and or
cladograms also communicate precious knowledge about relationships and that
that information is equally important as a permanent moniker.  But at least
classifications and cladograms could include the permanent uninomial in/on

The demand that non-taxonomists be asked to engage on having to do actual
nomenclatorial research is on the face of reasonable.  But then you begin to
realize that there is a lot of technical knowledge needed to understand
synonyms, homonyms, as well as the biological species concept, the concepts of
relationship, etc .  Isn't that a bit too much to ask for an ethologists,
geneticist, biotechnologist, herbalist, bird watcher,  etc. that they all learn
basic taxonomic and nomenclatorial procedure?

I am not sure how invariate chemical nomenclature is, but everyone seems to
know what I mean by sodium chloride or NaCl around the world.  And that is a
valuabel attribute, that overides the variety of cultural and linguistic common
names that are used.

I am not proposing that we throw out our present systems, simply that we
consider adding a fixed uninomial.  Withe a number of global taxonomic lists
being developed, now would be as good a time as any to think out carefully the
potential for a parallel uninomial system.   It might even be useful for
taxonomists; I know in some groups the common name has been more stable than
the Latin binomial!

Don McAllister

More information about the Taxacom mailing list