[Taxacom] validation of taxon names

Bradley Boyle bboyle at email.arizona.edu
Fri Feb 24 13:19:28 CST 2012

Hi all, 

This sub-thread about what to call the "parts" of a taxon name highlights yet another confusing disconnect between the languages of botany and zoology. I spend part of my time working on biodiversity informatics projects involving both botanists and zoologists. You would not believe the unproductive coding errors this little difference in terminology has caused.

Frank, as Richard points out, what you call "common language" is not common at all in botany. The dependent parts of taxon names, meaning strings which are meaningless in themselves unless paired with the name of the parent taxon, are epithets. Hence:

Poa annua (species name), annua (specific epithet)
Heliomeris longifolia var. annua (varietal name), annua (infraspecific epithet, or more precisely, varietal epithet)

In botany, it is not only confusing but simply incorrect to call an epithet a "species", "species name" or "specific name". This distinction is widely understood among botanists; confusion between the two is essentially nonexistent in my experience.

I know the ICBN and ICZN are officially independent, but there are times when I think it would benefit everyone to standardize at least some of our terminology.


On Feb 24, 2012, at 11:00 AM, taxacom-request at mailman.nhm.ku.edu wrote:

> Date: Thu, 23 Feb 2012 12:21:28 -0600
> From: "Richard Zander" <Richard.Zander at mobot.org>
> Subject: Re: [Taxacom] validation of taxon names
> To: <Frank.Krell at dmns.org>,	<kim at kimvdlinde.com>,	<fwelter at gwdg.de>
> Cc: taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
> Message-ID:
> 	<F96F97BCBD9C1C46A99B1FDBD2644C2F0126EA19 at MBGMail01.mobot.org>
> Content-Type: text/plain;	charset="iso-8859-1"
> We botanists use "specific epithet" for the last word of the binomen. A species name is a binomen.
> ??? 
> * * * * * * * * * * * *
> Richard H. Zander
> Missouri Botanical Garden, PO Box 299, St. Louis, MO 63166-0299 USA  
> Web sites: http://www.mobot.org/plantscience/resbot/ and http://www.mobot.org/plantscience/bfna/bfnamenu.htm
> Modern Evolutionary Systematics Web site: http://www.mobot.org/plantscience/resbot/21EvSy.htm
> -----Original Message-----
> From: taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu [mailto:taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu] On Behalf Of Frank.Krell at dmns.org
> Sent: Thursday, February 23, 2012 12:05 PM
> To: kim at kimvdlinde.com; fwelter at gwdg.de
> Cc: taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
> Subject: Re: [Taxacom] validation of taxon names
> Well, Drosophila melanogaster (or Sophophora melanogaster) IS the species name.
> melanogaster is the specific name
> I see no advantage to re-define what is even used in common language.
> Frank
> Dr Frank T. Krell 
> Curator of Entomology 
> Commissioner, International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature
> Chair, ICZN ZooBank Committee
> Department of Zoology 
> Denver Museum of Nature & Science 
> 2001 Colorado Boulevard 
> Denver, CO 80205-5798 USA 
> Frank.Krell at dmns.org 
> Phone: (+1) (303) 370-8244 
> Fax: (+1) (303) 331-6492 
> http://www.dmns.org/science/museum-scientists/frank-krell
> lab page: http://www.dmns.org/krell-lab


Brad Boyle, Ph.D.
Dept. of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
University of Arizona
BSW 310
P.O. Box 210088
Tucson, AZ 85721, USA

bboyle at email.arizona.edu

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