Protolog is fine for zoology too

christian thompson cthompson at SEL.BARC.USDA.GOV
Tue Jun 18 08:31:19 CDT 2002


"Protolog" is an excellent term to use to include the original HYPOTHESIS
(=circumscription) [let's drop forever, the word "description" as that does
not sound like real science today. We don't describe life, we made
hypotheses about life! Which are then tested thru subsequent observations,
etc.], typification and nomenclatural data, etc.

Its origin, with the Greek base of "Proto.." meaning the FIRST, etc. and
the "logus" which I assume comes from ultimately from the Greek (word,
speech) and is associated with the Greek ("logikos") or logic.  And maps to
the other meaning of "log" in English as a record of progress for a
particular activity (such as a ship's log). So, it clearly describe what you
want, the first record in a series that documents a evolving taxonomic

As a zoological "code warrior [retired]," I will declare that this another
one that the botanists got right! So, let's all use it.

However, we, Americans, do not need to maintain the French ending. Just
like Catalog versus Catalogue, we should drop the terminal "ue"

[So, tell ALL that their E-Type Initative should be "E-Protolog" Initative
and include digitalization of the original protolog along with the type
specimen(s), labels, etc.] :-) :-)


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 [NB: no terminal "n"]
visit our Diptera site at

>>> Richard Pyle <deepreef at BISHOPMUSEUM.ORG> 06/17 8:26 PM >>>
Many, MANY thanks to all who took the time to respond, both on and off the
list!  This has been a very useful exercise for me.  In my original post,
probably put too much emphasis on the "circumscription" (taxon concept)
of the word I was looking for.  As explained in my follow-up post, the
reasons that I want to identify those Assertions representing original
descriptions have to do almost entirely with nomenclatural bits of data,
rather than circumscription bits -- which is why I was leaning toward
"Basionym" as a familiar term that more or less captures the notion of an
"original description".

However, based on the feedback I received, I'm now leaning heavily toward
using 'Protologue', instead of 'Basionym'.  It seems to carry the same
implication of "original description", without the baggage of implying
nomenclature exclusively.  Would any Zoologists object to thinking of the
original descriptions of their taxa  as 'protologues'? How about microbial

Thanks again for the prompt & helpful 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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