Basionym in Zoology?

Richard Pyle deepreef at BISHOPMUSEUM.ORG
Sun Jun 16 06:53:59 CDT 2002

I'm looking for a simple term to represent something along the lines of:

"A Taxon Concept as it was represented in the original IC_N-compliant
description of its corresponding taxon name."

I don't think the perfect term exists, so I'm looking for something that
comes pretty close.  Probably the closest and most descriptive term would be
"Original Description", but I'd prefer something shorter and simpler, such
as (perhaps) "Basionym".

I see two problems with using this term for my application, one trivial, and
one that may or may not be trivial, depending on how people respond to this

The trivial problem is that "basionym", as I understand it, applies
specifically to the *name* as it was originally described, without
necessarily applying to the *concept* as it was originally proposed.  I
regard this as trivial for my application (even though I readily acknowledge
that the distinction between a taxon name and a taxon concept is anything
BUT trivial), in the sense that it wouldn't stop me from using it for my
purposes on this basis only.

However, the second "problem" with the term 'basionym' is that it seems to
be used exclusively within the context of botanical nomenclature -- and this
is the reason I'm posting this note.

My specific questions to members of this list are:

1) Is this term somehow *restricted* to botanical use, or would the term
carry over to represent its corrsponding concept in zoological and microbial
nomenclature as well? (I don't have a copy of the ICBN Code, but I gather
the term is referenced in that Code, whereas I don't believe it is
referenced in the ICZN Code.)

2) Would there be another term (besides "Original Description") that I might
consider for this purpose?

For some further explanation of context:

I'm finalizing the structure of the nomenclatural component of my personal
taxonomy research database.  The core table in this structure is what I
refer to as "Assertion", which is the intersection of a "Reference" and a
"Taxon Name".  Each record in the this table is essentially equivalent to
"TaxonName sensu Author(s)", or more generally a "Taxon Concept" (or
"potential" taxon concept).  A subset of these Assertions happen to
represent original descriptions of the taxon names.  I'm looking for a word
that represents this particular subset of Assertions.  I'm willing to use
"Original Description"; but I would rather use "Basionym", as long as that
term has (or could conceivably have) corresponding meaning for Zoological
(and microbial) taxa & names.

Thanks in advance for any feedback!


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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