[Taxacom] Objective synonyms?

Stephen Thorpe stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz
Mon May 31 17:12:56 CDT 2010

I think I can now put all the bits together on this and (hopefully) explain the issue in an intelligible way:

Because of the genus component, species names (in the sense of binomials) mix nomenclature with taxonomy (naming of the species with placement in a genus).

This causes some divergence between what bioinformaticians and the ICZN mean by certain terms

in particular, the objective/subjective synonymy distinction is an ICZN term which relates to the specific epithet only, not the whole binomen of a species name

so Aus bus Smith and Cus bus (Smith) are trivially objective synonyms because the specific epithets are "the same one" - there is only synonymy here in a trivial (reflexive) sense

if you think of the names more in a bioinformatic sense, then the objective/subjective distinction makes no sense, and there is non-trivial (but not objective) synonymy between Aus bus and Cus Bus ...

Bioinformaticians should think in terms of homotypy, but not objectivity/subjectivity, as the latter depends crucially on the slightly different ICZN meanings and concepts ...

That's as clear as I can make it,


From: Francisco Welter-Schultes <fwelter at gwdg.de>
To: taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
Sent: Tue, 1 June, 2010 2:41:03 AM
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] Objective synonyms?

> combination of the species-group name and the genus group name. So, 
> at what level does one have to determine whether there is synonymy? 

Depends in which science you intend to work. In the eyes of a 
bioinformatician, Uncia uncia and Felis uncia are synonyms. For those 
who intend to apply the ICZN Code's definition, not. 

Under the Code the term "synonym" refers to the taxonomic taxon, 
which is the concept behind Felis uncia, or Panthera uncia, or Uncia 
uncia. This concept is based on the type specimen(s) of the nominal 
taxon Felis uncia. For the synonymy at the species level, you use the 
species-level rank component, = the specific name. In our example 
this is uncia [Schreber], 1776. (For this purpose it is useful to 
cite uncia without genus).

> Or is the combination of genus and species a different rank?
It is the same rank, but you don't use this combination for 
taking decisions on synonymy.

University of Goettingen, Germany


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