[Taxacom] Objective synonyms?

Stephen Thorpe stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz
Sun May 30 20:51:49 CDT 2010

I think most people would say that Felis uncia and Uncia uncia are different names for the same species, and by the usual everyday definition of the term, therefore synonyms. They also have the same type specimen(s), so are homotypic. Some people go further, and claim that they are objective synonyms, but I do not, because there is nothing objective about them as they simply result from different subjective taxonomic placements. On the other hand, it is possible to say that they are the same name for the (same) species, just in different combinations, in which case they can't (except in a trivial sense) be synonyms. The ambiguity arises not just because species names are binomial*, but because one component of the binomial is a higher level in the taxonomic hierarchy (i.e., genus). This mixes up the two distinct issues of naming and placement in a taxonomic hierarchy. The fact that there is an ambiguity here means (by definition!) that there is no
 right or wrong answer!

This has nothing to do with the issue that you mention of nominal species. A nominal species is just a name for a species, and the same species can have more than one name (i.e., synonyms), so more than one nominal species can refer to the same species. This is regardless of anything to do with subjective vs. objective synonymy.

There are additional (but irrelevant) issues to do with orthographic variants of names, optional elements in names (e.g., subgenus, author/date), ...

*names could have been binomial without posing these sorts of problems. Just as the identical spelling ('bus') in Aus bus and Cus bus implies no relationship (plenty of unrelated things are called [genus] vulgaris, for example), there is no reason why the sharing the same "first name" need imply any relationship either. It is only because we have made the "first name" correspond to genus (a level higher in the taxonomic hierarchy) that these complexities and ambiguities result, but there is no way around this, so we just have to live with a little ambiguity ...



From: Francisco Welter-Schultes <fwelter at gwdg.de>
To: Stephen Thorpe <stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz>
Cc: Francisco Welter-Schultes <fwelter at gwdg.de>; taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
Sent: Mon, 31 May, 2010 1:17:51 PM
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] Objective synonyms?

> (1) [this may come as a BIG SHOCK to the bioinformatics people, but]
> Panthera uncia,  Uncia uncia and Felis uncia are all the same name!

Well, what about you, how many names do you have?
Stephen Thorpe,
Stephen Th.,
Thorpe, Stephen,
S. Thorpe,
Did you ever count them all?



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