ICZN questions- subspecific rank, status change etc.

Hendrik Segers hendrik.segers at RUG.AC.BE
Tue Jul 3 09:03:04 CDT 2001

Dear colleague:

> 1. If a name was published <1960 as 'var.' and subsequent authors demote
> to 'aberration'- intending to change the status of the name to a rank
> variety -- what exactly has happened? the rank 'ab' is considered
> infrasubspecific and thus neither available nor within the jurisdiction of
> the ICZN.  Unless I am wrong, the action of making a var. epithet into an
> 'ab.' epithet cannot remove the availability of the name, i.e. cannot make
> the name into a true aberrational name [one first published as an
> aberration].  Thus if it is impossible to change an available name to an
> aberration- what have these author's actually done?

They changed the *taxonomic* status of the nominal taxon, but the name
remains *nomenclaturally* available, as a synonym. Art. 45.6.2. only applies
when the nominal taxon was originally considered an aberration or morph,
subsequent designations do not affect availability.

> Have they stripped the epithet of its subspecific rank

No, they lowered it in taxonomic rank, with as nomenclatural consequence
that it becomes a synonym.

> and made it a synonym at the rank of specific epithet  i.e. NEW STATUS
(certainly not
> their intention- raising the rank of the name, they wanted to lower it )?

>From a nomenclatural point of view, the name already was, and remains,
available as species-group name. Nothing changed here, only its taxonomic
status changed.

> or, because we cannot make an available name into an infrasubspecific
name, have they
> simply failed to do anything, i.e. no status change.

Apparently, your confusion results from mixing the taxonomic status of a
nominal taxon, and the nomenclatural status of the name. The taxonomic
status can be changed to anything within the species-group, and to any
infrasubspecific rank or even become a taxonomic synonym, but this has no
implication on the nomenclatural availability of the name.
> 2. What is the difference between a subspecies that is valid and a
> subspecies that is a synonym of the specific epithet?

A valid subspecies is a taxon at the rank of subspecies (whatever your
definition), a synonymous subspecies is one whose taxonomic identity as
seperate subspecies is rejected. Names for both are available.

> some authors consider the 'var' epithets to be valid ranks (i.e. good
Sorry, this is wrong. Names with 'var' are infrasubspecific, thus not good

> 3. Am I correct that a name first published as infrasubspecific  and later
> used as a species group name (e.g. subspecies) becomes available at that
> point  but retains the author and year of the original publication (not
> year and authorship of the subsequent elevation in rank)?  ICZN article
> 50.3.1  indicates the correct author is the one who first makes the name
> available,

In the case of a name that was unavailable, of infrasubspecific rank (thus,
published explicitly as of infrasubspecific rank after 1960), and later used
to denote a taxon at any species-group rank

> but article (3rd example) seems to contradict this.

And this holds for names published as of infrasubspecific rank before 1960,
hence that were available.

> 4. A species first published in a subgenus that is later elevated to full
> genus- e.g. original combination: Silpha (Necrophorus) albus  which later
> becomes Necrophorus albus- does the author's name get put in parentheses?
> Article 51.3.2 seems to indicate that the author's name does not get put
> parentheses.

Correct, no parentheses here.

Hope this helps. Regards,

Dr. H e n d r i k  S e g e r s
Lab. Animal Ecology, Zoogeography and Nature Conservation
Dept. Biology, Ghent University
K.L. Ledeganckstraat 35
B-9000 Gent Belgium

tel.: +32 (0) 9 264 52 54
fax: +32 (0) 9 264 53 43
e-mail: Hendrik.Segers at rug.ac.be

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