[Taxacom] [iczn-list] Bullet-point summary on how to name an animal

Mike Taylor mike at indexdata.com
Mon Feb 14 16:00:10 CST 2011

On 14 February 2011 00:29, Francisco Welter-Schultes <fwelter at gwdg.de> wrote:
> For the Taxacom community who recently was joined in this discussion: this
> is a thread that has been initiated by Mike Taylor in the [iczn-list]
> mailing list some days ago. There already been a lot of mail exchange.
> Particularly on homonymy and gender agreement. Now it seems we have to
> repeat arguments.

Hi, Francisco, thanks for these thoughts.  I am not on the Taxacom
list: would you please forward this response to that list on my

> Mike, maybe you can explain for the Taxacom community again in short words
> your basic idea behind this guide.

The Checklist comes from the observation that while the ICZN was
written by taxonomists, it's used by zoologists -- or, more
frequently, NOT used by them, because it's 336 pages of dense legalese
that by necessity covers a hundred edge cases.  Because zoologists are
not familiar with the Code, they often make easily avoidable mistakes
then creating new zoological names.  My goal was to create a ONE PAGE
checklist that working zoologists can refer to when creating new names
to ensure that they do everything that is necessary.

> The draft is this one:
> http://svpow.wordpress.com/checklist-for-new-zoological-genus-and-species-names-draft/

Yes; this is the master copy and, by definition, is always up to date.
 I encourage people who are commenting on details of the Checklist
(rather than broader matters such as its aim and scope) to ensure that
they're working from that most recent version.

And now on to Francisco's comments ...

> I would leave out subspecies and subgenera. I understood that this should
> be a short, clear and concise guide to be understood by a broad public, by
> a non-insider community.

I am inclined to think that you may be right.  I was persuaded to
broaden the original scope from just genera-and-species to include all
genus-group and species-group names, and family-group names, by a
commment from Richard Pyle:
because it seemed like a small amount of additional wording to broaden
the scope significantly, but now I am wondering whether the additional
conceptual overhead is a heavier price than I'd initially realised.

I would welcome other opinions on this (especially Richard's).

> In such a guide it is not necessary to rule out every single exception of
> an exception of an exception. This Code is full with such things and this
> is exactly the reason why nobody understands it very well.

Yes, I strongly agree with this principle.  I don't think it's a
problem if the Checklist is MORE demanding than the Code, so long as
it's not less -- in other words, we need it to be the case that any
new zoological name created in a way that follows the Checklist is
guaranteed to be valid under the Code.

> I would not use the terms "genus-group names", "species-group" etc.
> These are insider terms, not broadly understood and not intelligible for
> users of a standard English dictionary or online translator. A genus-group
> is not a group of genera, a species-group not a group of species.
> So, consider replacing "species-group" by "species" etc., as you had it
> before.
> Talk only of species and genera. Leave out families. Zoologists who are so
> skilled that they establish families, don't create problems, don't need
> such a short guide, and certainly won't read it.

Again, I'd like to get a sense of the broader feeling on this matter.

> A sentence could be added in the short introductory chapter:
> "Subgenera and subspecies are genera and species in the sense of this guide."

That seems like asking for trouble.  It would be much safer to say
"subgenera and subspecies are not covered by this checklist".

> Homonymy
> Current version bullet point 5:
> "The complete scientific name (whether uninomial, binomial or trinomial)
> must not previously have been used for a different animal. When
> establishing new species or subspecies names, it is good practice to avoid
> specific names already established within closely related genera, to avoid
> the creation of secondary homonyms if the genera are later synonymized. It
> is also advisable to avoid creating new names that have been represented
> as misspellings of existing names, or names established under other Codes
> of scientific nomenclature (e.g., the botanical Code or the
> bacteriological Code)."
> It is necessary to be careful with the words to use, for not being incorrect.
> Sentence 1 is incorrect, there is no such provision at all in the Code, it
> also contradicts Art 59.2 ("previous" secondary homonyms can be used if
> not considered congeneric). I would propose simply to delete this
> sentence.

This point has been dramatically changed in the last couple of days,
and is now several smaller, reworded points, split between the main
Requirements list and the adjunct Best Practice list.  I'd welcome
your comments on the current version.

> Steve and Tony:
> Tony you are exactly right in your last mail.
> A new species Homo erectus could be established and used in Homo, if Pith.
> erectus is not classified in Homo. This is possible, and many taxonomists
> do such things. I consider it as highly useful to ask zoologists in such a
> guide not to do this.
> It is not forbidden under the Code to establish a junior homonym! It is
> incorrect to say "you must not". It is just useless and creates problems
> and workload for others.
> So the rest bullet point 5 is good, but I would not say "it is good
> practice". Be more direct.

Again please let me know your thoughts on how these ideas are
expressed in the current version.

> Bullet point 7:
> "The new name must be spelled using only the 26 letters of the Latin
> alphabet, without diacritics or punctuation.  [There are a tiny number of
> exotic exceptions; ignore them.]"
> Replace by
> "The new name must be spelled using only the 26 letters of the Latin
> alphabet, without diacritics or punctuation. [There is only one exception;
> ignore it.]"
> The only one exception is Art. the c-album case (which, of
> course, concerns also v-nigrum and x-vittatus and the others)

That article surely leaves open the possibility of many other
applications, such as a species with a z-shaped mark.

Still: I am inclined to simply remove the bracketed comment.

> Bullet point 14 again:
> "A specific name (i.e., the second part of a genus+species combination),
> if it is or ends in a Latin or latinized adjective or participle in the
> nominative singular, must agree in gender with the name of the genus that
> contains it. "
> Don't write "must". This creates only misunderstandings. People will think
> that names with incorrect endings are unavailable, and start disputing
> them, apply other authorships. This can create only problems. I initially
> thought the same, when I began zoological work. I thought that Deroceras
> gavdosensis was unavailable.
> But I suppose we will modify this point anyway.

It's hard to know exactly how to express this point correctly without
getting into just the kinds of special-cases and exceptions that you
are (rightly) keen for the Checklist to avoid.  It seemed simpler just
to say "get it right".

-- Mike.

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