[Taxacom] Does the species name have to change when it moves genus?

David Campbell pleuronaia at gmail.com
Mon Jun 18 17:17:00 CDT 2012

Requiring that the original name be a non-homonym would help with
relatively few cases in my experience.  Usually you have to track down
the invalid homonyms anyway to confirm which name was meant in an
existing identification.  [Hint in light of the fauna I was just
working on-if you name a new taxon in a very long established and
diverse genus, avoid common Latin descriptors.]

Tradition is a significant factor, given that over 250 years of
literature needs to be taken into account.  If a genus-species
combination were regarded as fixed, then the question would be "which
combination?"  Probably the majority of species are not assigned to
their original genus; many of these recombinations are

This gets into the Phylocode-ish question of to what extent and in
what manner should the taxon name reflect the phylogeny.

Then there's the question of, if a generic and specific epithet pair
becomes fixed, how do you indicate revised classifications?

Some original combinations are highly misleading, through homonymy,
misidentification, or unduly broad early genus concepts.  Changing
Triceratops horridus back to Bison horridus would be rather unhelpful,
for example.

In fact, the standardized common names being proposed for a number of
taxa function as unchanging epithets.  They are generally being
developed for the taxa most likely to get attention from
non-specialists, whereas specialists are likely to recognize
suspiciously similar epithets in related taxa.

Including the author and date generally helps, although there are the
unhelpful authors who either use the same epithet in closely related
genera, have a memory lapse and create an outright homonym, or reuse
common descriptors for multiple infraspecific forms within a genus.

Dr. David Campbell
Collections Assistant
The Paleontological Research Institution
1259 Trumansburg Road
Ithaca NY 14850

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