[Taxacom] Objective synonyms?

Gary Rosenberg rosenberg at ansp.org
Mon May 31 11:03:17 CDT 2010

You almost had me convinced for a moment, Francisco. Then I saw the error of your ways : )

You seem to be equating an available name with an original combination. The Code does not say this. This can be better illustrated in a different context: the only species eligible for type species designation for a genus are "the originally included nominal species".

A nominal species is a concept of a species denoted by an available name.
All available names are scientific names.
A scientific name at the species level is a binomen.
Recommendation 67B says: "The name of a type species should be cited by its original binomen...."

>From this can be inferred that available names for species do not have to be original binomina. Since Recommendations are not binding, let us see what happens if we say the Recommendation is contradictory.

There are many cases in the literature where a new genus-group taxon is named, and a list of specific names is given under it, for example, in H. & A. Adams, linked here) is typical: under the heading "Genus Leiostraca, H. & A. Adams" are listed acuta, Sow.; bilineata, Alder; bivittata, H. and A Adams; fulvocincta, C. B. Adams; etc.

These taxa are not listed by their original combinations, and the specific names in themselves are not available, they are components of the species names. The available names eligible for type species designation in this work are the new combinations: Leiostraca acuta, Leiostraca bilineata; Leiostraca bivittata; Leiostraca fulvocincta, etc. To say otherwise would render thousands of genera in zoology unavailable, or change their type species.

I do agree with you, Francisco, that a subspecies name and a species name with different final epithet and the same type should be considered objective synonyms. To make this possible the ICZN glossary definition of synonym should be changed
to say "group" (as in family-group, genus-group, species-group) rather than "rank".

Gary Rosenberg
Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia

>>> "Francisco Welter-Schultes" <fwelter at gwdg.de> 05/31/10 6:06 AM >>>
I can understand Stephen's message, that nomenclature is not easy and 
that most people would certainly not understand it quickly. 
Zoological nomenclature is a whole science, which implies that it is 
sophisticated and needs a deeper view until one finds a solution 
for a problem or an answer to a relatively simple question.

And it often is unnecessarily complicate. 
I have repeatedly proposed to find ways to make that science 
understood more easily by people who are not skilled, by improving 
the ICZN Code and adapt it more to the needs of a broader public. I 
am convinced that this is possible, for example by adding more 
examples of how to interprete certain articles, by providing more 
links within the Code, and by removing parts of the Code that are a 
burden in that they provoke misunderstandings without containing 
effective content (for example, the term "new combination" in the 
Glossary is complete nonsense). The Code is currently like any other 
legal document, as if it was created by people who earn much or their 
money under the condition that most people won't be able to 
understand these legal texts. The law people usually keep attention 
that their texts are not easily understood. Zoologists should not 
copy this behaviour.

I did not intend to say that Gary's interpretation (Panthera uncia and
Felis uncia being different names) is wrong. I just wanted to say that
the Code does not rule taxonomy and that two interpretations - Gary's
and the one I pointed out - are possible under the Code. I did not 
intend to say that Gary's position was wrong in this (first) point. 
Only his second conclusion - that both are objective synonyms under 
the Code - is certainly not tenable.

Those people who think that S. Thorpe and St. Thorpe are different 
names (bioinformaticians for example), will also regard Felis uncia 
and Panthera uncia as different names, and as synonyms. That's just 
like it is, I see no need to interfere in those sciences and to tell 
those people to change their definitions, and not to regard such 
names as synonyms. And as I said, you can also - but are not obliged 
to - regard the two names as different names under the Code. I only 
would be careful to use the term "synonym" in this context.

The initial question here was if the taxobox in Wikipedia should list 
Panthera uncia as a synonym of Uncia uncia. And here I would say, 
better no. The taxobox was created to list names. It is convenient, 
if Wikipedia intends to look professional, to use the science of 
zoological nomenclature for the names in the taxobox. It certainly 
makes sense to mention the "names" Felis uncia and Panthera uncia in 
the taxobox of Uncia uncia. But there is no need to list these under 
the header "synonyms". I would just create another header "Other 
genus-species combinations", this would be nomenclaturally correct 
and the problem would be solved. 

Geoff: Thomas has made no mistake there, believe me.

University of Goettingen, Germany


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