ICZN Code questions

christian thompson cthompson at SEL.BARC.USDA.GOV
Thu Aug 22 11:48:58 CDT 2002

To response to Lorenz:

1) " I'm not sure if TAXACOM is an appropriate forum for such dry
stuff, so I'm simply asking: is there another list where undeterred Code
users can post some of their boring questions?

Yes and NO.  We once had a listserver devoted to ICZN, which was runned by the same people who now run TAXACOM. Unfortunately, Herr President Professor Doktor Otto Kraus and Philip Tubbs didn't like it. And their opposition to bringing the ICZN into the modern digital world finally lead to my resignation from the ICZN in protest!

So, TAXACOM is the best it gets!

2) I do read TAXACOM daily when I am in the office and usually do answer questions. Frequently off-line as I do believe most don't care about ICZN details as Steve's comments indicate, etc.


 2a) what is "prevailing usage"?

This is defined in the glossary as " ... that usage of the name which is adopted by at least a substantial majority of the most recent authors concerning with the relevant taxon, irrespective of how long ago their work was published."

NOW about your last question:

2c) did the definition of "incorrect subsequent spellings" change since ICZN 3?   

YES. And one of the most serious Tubb editorial revisions is Art. 33.3.1 where he reduced the wording in the draft (see Art. 34d) to replace " ... in general current use as defined by the criteria in Article 79c ..." with ".. in prevailing usage .."
That may seem to be trivial but is very serious problem that few have recognized. First, the criteria of 79c are those now in Art. and, which assures that there is SOME USAGE. When "prevailing usage" is used without these restrictions, then there is a real problem.

For example, a student (his work to be published) noticed that an obscure spider name, which has only been published THREE times, was mispelt in the two subsequent publications. Hence, under the new ICZN article, then that misspelling is now the CORRECT spelling. It does not matter that the two subsequent misspelling are ancient, last century, very obscure, etc., only that 2 is a substantial majority of 3!

My advice to the student was to published the details, but use the correct original spelling. (Thoreau's civil disobedience, or what another colleague calls Art. 91 (do what is right and let some one else worry about the details)  

ALL of which leads to you last question, which is another Tubbism. Philip and the majority of the Editorial Committee had no understanding of the digital world. No understanding that scientific names are UNIQUE KEYs important for indexing literature, etc. I wrote my chapter (Names: the keys to biodiversity) in Biodiversity II for people like Philip, but he refused to be educated. To Philip primary homonymy was irrelevent so long as the "context (names are now being used in different genera)" was different, so the compromise (or my failure) was Art. 23.9.5

2c) what about primary homonyms used simultaneously as valid names? 

My advice to students is the same as above, use Art. 91.  Primary junior homonyms should not exist as valid taxonomic names as it would remove the ability to use the original combination as an unique key to track names in multiple classifications. That is, a valid name for a species taxon which has the same type may be different in various classifications (split or lumped ones, for example), but given that primary junior homonyms are not allowed, the original combination is an unique key, the same for those differently named valid taxa in the different classifications.

The Green Book is a good Code; it is the best we could get given the time.  Many of the issues that have been posted last week (I was on vacation) were presented to the ICZN, some were even in the draft version (such as original spelling as the invariant epithet), but in the end they all failed. And part of that was because the digital community was not understood nor fully represented. Oh, well ... ancient history now.



F. Christian Thompson
Systematic Entomology Lab., ARS, USDA
Smithsonian Institution
Washington, D. C. 20560-0169
(202) 382-1800 voice
(202) 786-9422 FAX
cthompso at sel.barc.usda.gov [NB: no terminal "n"]
visit our Diptera site at www.diptera.org

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