Basionym/Protologue -- One more question

Richard Pyle deepreef at BISHOPMUSEUM.ORG
Tue Jul 2 10:00:41 CDT 2002

>     Ceci une question métaphysique. En effet, si vous avez plusieurs
> combinaisons comme suit:
> Genus1 albus A. (1790)
> Genus2 albus (A.) X. (1800)
> Genus3 albus (A.) Y. (1850)
>     Le basionyme de Genus2 albus (A.) X. est Genus1 albus A.
>     Le basionyme de Genus3 albus (A.) Y est aussi Genus1 albus A. Ce
> N'EST PAS Genus2 albus (A.) X! (La combinaison Genus3 albus peut
> parfaitement être faite par Y en ignorant l'existence de la
> combinaison Genus2 albus.)

Yes, I certainly agree with this.

>     L'écriture de la citation d'auteurs "(A.) B" sert à indiquer le
> type du basionyme et de toutes les combinaisons basées sur lui. Cf.
> art. 7, dernière phrase de l'exemple 2, sous 7.4: "Tsuga mertensiana
> (Bong.) Carrière [...] the citation in parentheses (under Art. 49) of
> the name of the original author, Bongard, indicate the type of the
> name".
>     Le type de toute recombinaison (comb. nov.) est par définition
> même identique au type de son basionyme.

Yes, exactly -- and that's why I tend to think of the "name" as the terminal
epithet only.  When the epithet is later used in the context of a different
genus from the genus-context of its Basionym, the type stays with the
epithet, not the binomial.  So does the original authorship.  I think I
might have overly "stirred the pot" when I said I thought of the "name" as
the terminal epithet, rather than the binomial -- I obviously agree that we
do use a system of "binomial nomenclature" (which seems to also include
trinomials, etc....but that's beside the point), and to that extent, I
certainly agree that "Xxxxxx yyyyyy" and "Zzzzzz yyyyyy" can be thought of
as two different "names".  But the way I see it, the important bits
(especially the type) are bound to the terminal epithet only, and that is
why I see it as the true "name".

Obviously, we need to use this terminal-epithet-name in the context of a
generic name to reduce confusion (given that generic names are mostly
unique, whereas specific names are often not).  But a generic name alone
doesn't really eliminate confusion by itself, especially if it does not
happen to be the same generic name that was used in the Basionym.  This is
why we persist in using original authorship (which, again, is really bound
to the terminal epithet, moreso than the binomial) -- to help clarify which
instance of a terminal epithet we are referencing to (among any number of
other terminal epithets with identical spellings that could be placed within
any number of different genera). Of course, authorship alone doesn't always
cut it either, as pointed out by Geoff Read in an earlier post (i.e.,
multiple 'galapagensis' within a single publication).

My point in thinking of the terminal epithet as the "name", however, boils
down to the fact that the basic elements of identity (e.g., type,
authorship, etc.) are bound to the terminal epithet, not the binomial.  I
see the generic placement "du jour" (including that of the Basionym) as a
mechanism of communicating affinities with other terminal-epithet "names",
more than I see it as the generation of multitudes of new binomial "names"
whenever anybody erects a new combination.

Although people often think that placing a species epithet in the context of
a different genus epithet changes the definition (or circumscription)
represented by the species epithet; in reality it does not.  The species
epithet is still anchored to the same type specimen, and the scope of
individual organisms that are regarded as sharing sufficient kinship to that
type specimen to be included within the same species circumscription does
not change simply by moving the generic placement (as it does, for example,
when one species epithet is placed in synonomy with another species
epithet).  All the generic placement does (ultimately) is make an assertion
about affinities with other species-epithet circumscriptions.  Thus, in
summary, the logic seems clear that the terminal epithet is the unit of the
label that is most closely bound to the circumscription, and hence the
reason for my concept of the word "name".

>     Comment détermine-t-on le type d'un nom, en particulier d'un nom
> qui est le basionyme d'un autre nom? En considérant le protologue! Là
> est le rôle du protologue. Il en résulte que s'interroger sur un
> éventuel protologue pour une recombinaison n'a pas de sens ou,
> plutôt, n'a aucune utilité pratique (ou, ce qui revient au même, le
> protologue d'une comb. nov. est la même chose que le protologue du
> basionyme).
>     (S'il y a un changement de type dans un transfert, par définition
> même le nom après transfert n'est pas une comb. nov., mais un nom.
> nov. ou un tax. nov. (sp. nov., par exemple). Dans ce cas, le
> protologue du nom est celui où le nom. nov. ou le tax. nov. est est
> publié.)

Yes - thank you for clarifying that.  It is now even more clear to me that
"Basionym" is the word I seek for my database needs.

> >Related to this is how we each tend to use the word "name".  I
> tend to use
> >it in terms of the "terminal" epithet only;
>     C'est une mauvaise habitude!

Do you mean that it is bad practice to think of the "name" as the terminal
epithet only?  If so, then I would disagree on logical grounds (outlined


> Cela ne coûte pas plus cher
> d'utiliser les définition rigoureusement et évite des erreurs dues
> aux abus de langage, notamment dans les cas difficiles.


>     J'ai le sentiment que toutes ces discussions sont compliquées
> artificiellement par le non respect des définitions rigoureuses des
> termes techniques, non respect qui engendre des conceptions vagues ou
> fausses et rend les raisonnements parfois inextricables. Tout est
> beaucoup plus simple si l'on commence par assimiler les concepts à
> l'aide de définitions exactes.

On this point I concede!  In fact, I think an alarming proportion of debate
on this list (and other lists I subscribe to) ultimately represents
"artificial" debate due to issues of semantics and precise word definitions.
I agree that we should be very careful with our use of terminology, to avoid
confusion.  And, to whatever extent that the taxonomic community has decided
to apply the word "name" to a binomial (or trinomial), rather than the
terminal epithet, far be it from me to put logic ahead of efficient
communication! :-)

Thanks again to all who participated in this long but enlightening exchange.
I sense that the topic has no gone past its prime; and given that I now have
(with confidence) the answers I originally sought, I will cease perpetuating
this discussion on this public forum.

Much Aloha,


Richard L. Pyle
Ichthyology, Bishop Museum
1525 Bernice St., Honolulu, HI 96817
Ph: (808)848-4115, Fax: (808)847-8252
email: deepreef at
"The opinions expressed are those of the sender, and not necessarily those
of Bishop Museum."

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