protologues & higher taxa

Richard Pyle deepreef at BISHOPMUSEUM.ORG
Tue Jun 18 02:21:53 CDT 2002

Thanks again to all who responded (thus far unanimous in accepting
"protolog[ue]" for both zoological and microbial use).

Ken Kinman wrote:

>      But more importantly, I am just wondering how high in the Linnean
> hierarchy the term protologue would (or should) be used.  Its greatest
> utility would be at species and generic levels, and perhaps also
> at family
> level.  Should it be used for higher level taxa as well (phylocoders are
> apparently going to use it for all taxa in their rankless system)?
>      For example, would Linnaeus' 1758 classification of
> "Insecta" (roughly
> equivalent to today's Arthropoda) be the protologue of taxon Insecta?

In my database application, I certainly plan to use the term for every rank
all the way up to the top.  However, I'm glad you brought this point up,
because we as taxonomists *usually* think of "original descriptions
[=hypotheses]" for species, *often* think of them for genera, and
*occasionally* think of them for families (the three rank-groups covered by
ICZN), but *seldom* do we think of them for ranks higher than family.  My
data schema requires one for every  name, all the way up to the top, in
order to serve as an "anchor" that unites different Assertions to the same
original term (even when they use different variants of spelling).  But I'd
be interested to hear what others on this list think.  It's relatively
straightforward to identify protologues for species and genera, and perhaps
families....but it's not always obvious who first coined names at higher
ranks (this is rarely, if ever, documented in subsequent assertions about
such higher-rank names).  Again I reveal my ignorance of the ICBN and
Bacteriological codes.....but how high up the rank list do they encompass?
Do they also stop at family?

Tom Lammers wrote:

> Think of "protologue"  as nomenclatural "enabling legislation;"  it is the
> published document that brings a name into existence, that
> permits it to be
> used rationally.  It includes but is not limited to the original
> description/diagnosis, type designation, name, classification,
> illustration, etc.   Bear in mind the etymology: "first discourse" -- that
> is exactly what it is: the first discourse on this name.

I guess this may be another case where my (scant) knowledge of the ICBN Code
fails me....but my understanding of the ICZN code is that the "original
description" (protologue) is more or less unambiguously dictated by the
Articles in the Code:  it either meets the criteria (of the relevant year)
for nomenclatural "availability", or it does not.  But now that I think of
it, a nomenclatural database ought to also track "unavailable" names as
well -- so perhaps your point (if I read it right) that a protologue may or
may not constitute the "enabling" of an IC_N-compliant name, only further
underscores its appropriateness for my application.

> As such, rank is irrelevant.  ANY name will have a protologue, a first
> discourse by which (in the eyes of the relevant Code) that name first came
> into existence.

Except, however, that if the relevant Code happens to be ICZN, then names
above the rank of family are not governed (to wit, "The Code does not fully
regulate the names of taxa above the family group...." 4th, p. XIX --
perhaps a "Code Warrior" could explain where the ICZN Code at least
partially regulates names above family?).  So it seems taxonomists are sort
of left to their own for determining which specific use legitimately
represents the "bringing into existence" of higher-rank names.


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."

More information about the Taxacom mailing list