[Taxacom] validation of taxon names

Paul van Rijckevorsel dipteryx at freeler.nl
Tue Feb 21 03:03:55 CST 2012

The end user is interested in the scientific name of a taxon, and
the Glossary of the zoological Code is clear about this aspect.
The zoological Code regards specific and subspecific names
(jointly: species-group names) as 'names' as well but this is an
internal, zoological nomenclatural matter.

What I am confused about here is not the scientific name of a
taxon, which the Glossary is clear about. The Glossary also
appears to be clear that these scientific names of taxa are
available names. So, I can envision the following possibilities:
1) the name of a species, the binomen, is an available name,
but the specific name is not an available name
2) the name of a species, the binomen, is an available name,
and the specific name is also an available name
3) the name of a species, the binomen, is an available name,
but although the specific name is both a name and available,
it is not an available name (of course, this would be strange,
but no stranger than other things that are in the zoological Code).

and apparently 4) the name of a species, the binomen, is not
an available name, but the specific name is an available name?

As to the comparison between botany and zoology, whenever
a species-group name can be an available name there is a
absolute break down (even if only local, in some cases) between
the two. In botany a "validly published name" is always the
"scientific name of a taxon"; it is unimaginable that a specific
epithet (or any other epithet), by itself, can be a) either a name
or b) validly published. This divide is, of course, even bigger
because in zoology a specific name may exist even if it never
was part of a complete scientific name of a taxon, a binomen
( This is really, really weird, from a botanical
nomenclatural perspective!


From: "Richard Pyle" <deepreef at bishopmuseum.org>
Sent: Monday, February 20, 2012 8:10 PM
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] validation of taxon names

> Thank you. I will try and digest this. It does not seem to make sense that
> the name of a species (the binomen) is not available (except in the case
> of
> secondary homonymy),

That's not exactly what I said.  The availability of a name of a species
(the epithet) is independent of the genus with which it is combined, except
in the (relatively rare) case of species-group homonymy.

The confusion is not about availability or homonymy.  The confusion comes
back to my hints over several recent posts that the definition of "a name"
is not as consistent throughout the taxonomic community as you seem to
suggest.  To most botanists, "a name" is a combination.  That's fine
(binomial nomenclature, and all).  But not all zoologists see it this way;
especially when applying rules of the Code.  While you certainly can make
the argument that the full combination is "the name", one can also make an
equally legitimate argument that the placement of a species epithet within a
genus is an act of taxonomy/classification, not nomenclature.  It only bumps
into nomenclature (from the perspective of many zoologists) when homonymy is
at play.

Note: one part about the zoological code that is confusing is that it uses
the word "name" both in the sense of the binomial, and in the sense of the
within-group name element.

The glossary definition of the unqualified "name" is not particularly

name, n.
(1) (general) A word, or ordered sequence of words, conventionally used to
denote and identify a particular entity (e.g. a person, place, object,
concept). (2) Equivalent to scientific name (q.v.). (3) An element of the
name of a species-group taxon: see generic name, subgeneric name, specific
name, subspecific name.

#1 is almost useless; #3 defines "name" as being the individual elements;
and #2 refers to "scientific name":

scientific name
Of a taxon: a name that conforms to Article 1, as opposed to a vernacular
name. The scientific name of a taxon at any rank above the species group
consists of one name; that of a species, two names (a binomen); and that of
a subspecies, three names (a trinomen) [Arts. 4 and 5]. A scientific name is
not necessarily available.

...which says that a scientific name cosnsists of one, two, or three names
(seems a bit circular to me that a name=scientific name; but a scientific
name = 1 name, 2 names, or 3 names....)

In any case, many botanists seem to think that the botanical approach
(combinations are "the name") is much more stable, sensible, and logical.
Funnily enough, many zoologists feel the same way about the zoological
approach.  The naïve taxonomists make the mistake of thinking that the
"other guys" are being naïve (somewhat ironic).  But the people who really
think about and understand both approaches, realize that they are both
right, and they are both wrong, to about equal degrees.  Proof of this is
that both approaches have been about equally successful, and equally
problematic, for the last couple of centuries.

> but certainly if species-group names are available
> names there is even less correspondence between the zoological and
> botanical Codes than I had supposed.

I suspect that you are probably right about that.

> In that case it would be a lot safer to
> say something like "a validly published name in botany is more or less
> comparable with an available name in zoology; in some cases fairly closely
> and in some cases not at all".

I would tend to agree with that statement, although "not at all" might be a
bit strong.  I would replace it with "...and in some cases, much less so."


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