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

Anne Edwards jimanneedwards at mac.com
Mon Jun 18 23:29:44 CDT 2012

Like Bob, I think many of the responders are missing Rod Page's main point. Yes, Rod understands the various codes that mandate that the name of a species includes the genus and species names, and that when a species is changed to a new genus it is then referred to under that genus name (as well as taking on the correct Latin gender). However, as I read Rod's prescient comments, he is asking why do we have to do that? Why can't we dissociate the original name from the taxonomic (and phylogenetic) hierarchy? There is no reason that we can't have a phylogenetic superstructure that is separate from, but adding information to, the taxonomic name.

As I understand it, much of the rationale for Rod's proposal is to allow us to disambiguate what original describer X names a particular species from what subsequent revisers Y, Z, and A want to do with it. As long as the taxonomic delineation has not changed, then describer's species X is the same entity, but under different generic names, from the various revisers. Thus, I see Rod's query as a plea for defining a particular taxonomic concept (and name) as fixed from the time that the author defines it. Other definitions that move the species to a different genus should still carry the describer's name, unless they change the delineation of the species. In essence, I think, this is equivalent to having an LSID or other unique identifier for each new taxonomic entity, without muddying the water by moving the species to another genus. Classifications would then combine the original names into the current view of the phylogenetic relationships of the species, without changing the names. You could still have something called Sophopora, with entities called Drosophila, in the same taxon. The major difference is that the genus name would not indicate phylogenetic relatedness.

As Rod notes, the PhyloCode (which I recognize that many people on Taxacom loathe) does something similar, but, I think, in a much less intuitive way.

I hate to admit it, given our disagreements in the past, but I like Rod's proposal. Either that, or we give a unique identifier to each person's interpretation, but unique identifiers are much harder to handle by human beings. I would much rather have a taxonomic category (supergenus?) that indicates taxonomic affinity than the current system, where it is extremely difficult to understand the intent of the original describer of a genus.

Jim Edwards

On Jun 18, 2012, at 11:46 PM, Bob Mesibov wrote:

> Several posters have clearly explained to Rod why we change genus names. I suspect he can appreciate our point of view, but the following suggests that he won't accept it:
> "Dear Donald,
> It's more than changing endings, it's changing the genus in the first place that I object to. It's all very well naming things, but to change the names subsequently seems unjustified.
> The assumption that only an expert is interested, or that expertise is readily available, seems short-sighted. So we're producing knowledge that is useful to only a few? We can't anticipate anyone being interested in these taxa down the line? If that's the case, then it's clearly there's not much point funding taxonomy ;)
> Isn't it possible that as we see a flood of metagenomics and DNA barcoding we will see people trying to make sense of those sequences, try to attach them to taxa that have been described (and for which we may have ecological information?). There will be people (like me) looking at sequences, distributions, phylogenies, trying to link this stuff together, only to be confronted with a mass of names that make sense to some (possibly dead) expert.
> Regards
> Rod"
> After Rod has succeeded in making taxonomy more convenient for other non-taxonomists, he should turn his attention to chemistry. Take glycerol, for example, also known as glycerin, glycerine, propane-1,2,3-triol and some other names. For heaven's sake, can't these chemists understand that other people have to use these names? How can other people link together all the published and other information on this substance, when it's been tagged with so many different names over the years? Come on, chemists, get your act together!
> After chemistry Rod should tackle medicine. Not only are there different names for what are basically the same condition, the silly doctors prefer to use arcane Latin descriptors. For example, who outside medicine would know that proctalgia fugax is a short-lived pain in the ass?
> Disclaimer: that last phrase was not intended to refer to any post, query or opinion expressed on Taxacom.
> -- 
> Dr Robert Mesibov
> Honorary Research Associate
> Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, and
> School of Agricultural Science, University of Tasmania
> Home contact: PO Box 101, Penguin, Tasmania, Australia 7316
> Ph: (03) 64371195; 61 3 64371195
> Webpage: http://www.qvmag.tas.gov.au/?articleID=570
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