To hyphenate or not to hyphenate

B.J.Tindall bti at DSMZ.DE
Fri Oct 31 15:45:19 CST 2003

Some comments:
The "Bacteriological Code" is changing it's name to reflect the fact that
it covers "prokaryotes" - an alternative would have been to create an
"Archaeological Code" ;-). In the early days "bacteriology" also included
viruses, but now they operate their own system. Viruses were included in
the BioCode, but since they tend not to use the "genus_species" binomial
there are some significant differences.

If "bacteriologists" work with "prokaryotes" then we also clash with the
Archaea/Archae(o)bacteria/(rarely used Metabacteria) vs Bacteria/Eubacteria
concept. We also clash with the five kingdom concept of animals - plants -
fungi - protists - monera (actually monera also used to be protists). The
important point is not the names and the groups, but what some of the
concepts include. I don't have a problem working with both the terms
"prokaryote" (which reflects cellular organisation) and Archaea/Bacteria,
which reflects other biological differences. One of the major problems we
face in biological systematics is how "real" are the higher taxa, such as
kingdoms, anyway?

In the BioCode, names governed prior to it's implementation would be
covered by the "Special Codes". However, that doesn't mean that the Special
Codes remain static. My impression is that one result of the BioCode was
that we tended to look at the other Codes, as well as our "own Codes" from
a different angle afterwards. I confess that I stole some of the wording
from the BioCode (thanks to John MacNeill) to solve some pressing problems
in bacteriology.
I have the feeling that some elements in the ICBN were also borrowed from
other Codes. The use of viable type material for organsims such as yeasts,
for example, is similar to our concepts in bacteriology. As far as I recall
most of the core of the BioCode quickly found the common elements, although
here differences between codes had to be spelt out (i.e. animal skins,
herbarium sheets, or frozen bacterial strains as type material). In the
case of inchnotaxa and cultivated plants (we usually forget the cultivated
plant code) the differences were so large to the other parts of the other
codes that they had to be dealt with separately. If I recall there was also
no attempt to "start from scrath" but to see how much continuity could be
maintained. Of course if you undertake such an excerise then you also have
to do something like introduce a date on which it starts. My feeling is
that it was a bit like a radical spring cleaning of the existing codes, but
it wasn't meant to tear down and rebuild the existing structure.

I think it is also important to realise that by dropping the classical
divide of animals and plants is not meant as a form of disrespect to the
generations who used this before us, but to simply say we have more
information and we should recognise that a slightly different order is
materialising which doesn't fit into the old concepts. However, that isn't
the fault of past generations, who did a good job without the kind of
methods or data which we have today.


At 10:19 30.10.2003 -0600, STEPHEN MANNING wrote:
>At 11:38 AM 10/30/03 +0100, Paul van Rijckevorsel wrote:
>>Some thoughts: the question of how long a tradition exists would appear
>>irrelevant, it is not a matter of earning the right to use a particular
>>Code! At some point in the past choices were made as to what groups were
>>treated according to what Code, and this is "tradition".
>>As to the question if each monophyletic group should have its own Code, this
>>is somewhat disturbing. A new manifestation of phylogenetic thinking to come
>>along and upset nomenclature? Each such Code could be more effective in the
>>sense it can provide examples fitting the group in question, thus improving
>>readability. Also it might be easier to make decisions on controversial
>>matters (the Bacterial people are the only one to come up with a clean-swept
>>list of names?). Still the mind shudders at where this might end. How many
>>Codes would this result in? What if views shift on what constitutes a
>>particular monophyletic group? This would necessitate the merging or
>>splitting of Codes?
>That does bother me!  I would strongly prefer to have all organisms subject
>to the same rules, whether it is called BioCode or something else (then we
>can decide whether to include viruses too!).
>That said, it also seems dishonest somehow if as professional systematists
>we are still constrained to consider outdated classifications in order to
>decide how to name organisms in our field of specialty.
>Thus, reluctantly, I would say if it is choosing between the lesser of two
>evils (too many different codes but still reflecting the best current
>perceptions of biological reality) versus continuing to use the ICBN for
>slime molds, for example, I would choose the first.
>It is my understanding that there are presently three codes -
>bacteriological (are Archaea subject to this?), ICBN, and ICZN.  If this is
>so, as a possible guideline  for change unless and until all are merged
>into one, how about the following:
>For any given nomenclatural question (hyphenation for example), if all
>three codes agree, consider this as the rule for all three codes plus any
>others that may be promulgated.  If two of the three codes agree,
>consider  the 2/3 majority code the rule for any new codes; at the same
>time alert those using the one nonconforming code in case they would want
>to vote in a change to the majority position (of course as always if
>something is wrong with a majority position it could be subject to change
>based on experience, much as at present).   That way, a new code would not
>have to completely start from scratch.  I think a good by-product of such a
>process would possibly be streamlining of each code - maybe more user
>friendly for all.
>>Just an idle thought: for a while there were multiple versions of the
>>Botanical Rules (French, English and German). Maybe what should be the Code
>>of the future is not ONE BioCode, but a MetaCode that sets a general
>>framework of Rules, and separate Codes for the relevant groups, that follow
>>the MetaCode but each have their own examples, perhaps their own terminology
>>("valid"/"correct"), special rules for special situations, and their own
>>lists of names with special status (the actual ICBN is only a 104 pages but
>>has 258 pages with such names, not counting families). Such special Codes
>>would be user-friendly, and would limit the extent of a breach with the
>>Paul van Rijckevorsel
>>Utrecht, NL
>Stephen D. Manning, Ph.D.
>Professor of Biology
>Mathematics and Science Division
>Arkansas State University - Beebe
>P. O. Box 1000
>Beebe, Arkansas 72012-1000
>Tel: 501-882-7162

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