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

Richard Pyle deepreef at bishopmuseum.org
Tue Jun 19 02:57:49 CDT 2012

There is another way to frame this:

1) Names assigned to a single type specimen, and the conceptual scope of the
taxon implied by usage of the name left to subjective debate;

2) Names assigned to an objectively defined taxon (clade), but where parent
and child can reverse roles.

#1 is Linnean Nomenclature(ICZN, ICNafp, bacteriological Code); # 2 is
essentially Phylocode.

After two and a half centuries of mostly successful implementation, why
would we try to re-define how Linnean names work?  Why not just adopt a
system designed to do what you want it to do?  Phylocode have too much
baggage?  OK, then define something new.

The real elephant in the room is the one that Paul Kirk articulated: i.e.,
that the problems related to species epithets changing combinations with
different genera are downright trivial (and actually almost tractable --
watch this space) compared with the wholly intractable problem of divining
implied taxon concepts from scientific names (with or without basionym
authorships, with or without year, with or without combination authorships).

If you want to propose a new "norm" in how taxonomists (and other
biologists) cite scientific names, don't piddle around with the genus
combination issue.  Just get people to add a "sensu [Author+year]" to their
first-use of scientific names, so we can more readily nail down the usage of
the name to a (one would hope!) well-defined taxon concept.

While such a proposal would be far less provocative (and, hence, much less
fun); it would certainly be far more *USEFUL* -- and also far more easy to
implement (i.e., much less disruptive to historical practice).


> -----Original Message-----
> From: taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu [mailto:taxacom-
> bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu] On Behalf Of Roderic Page
> Sent: Monday, June 18, 2012 9:38 PM
> Cc: Nico Franz
> Subject: Re: [Taxacom] Does the species name have to change when it
> moves genus?
> Nico has put the issue quite elegantly:
> "The inference gains that come with these names/causal properties
> associations (seem to have, historically) outweigh(ed) the costs of
> changes."
> It seems to me we have two alternative ways of naming things. Once we've
> coined a name, either:
> 1. names don't change when notions of relationship change, hence we can't
> (necessarily) infer relationships from name, or
> 2. names change when notions of relationship change, hence we can infer
> relationships from names
> Option 1 means names are stable (great for information retrieval) but
> tell you much about relationships (indeed, may be positively misleading if
> read literally).
> Option 2 means names are (usually) informative about relationships at some
> level, but are liable to change at any time.
> Option 1 means we can't use names to convey relationship, so we need
> some other way to do this (e.g., phylogenetic trees)
> Option 2 means we can't retrieve all we know about a taxon by searching on
> a single name, so we need a way to track all name changes over time (e.g.,
> global database of synonyms).
> Taxonomic practise follows option 2, but without a database of synonyms.
> Arguably in the past option 1 would have been difficult to implement given
> the varied notion of what "related" might mean. Given that the last few
> decades have seen "related" become fairly explicitly defined in terms of
> evolutionary history, might option 1 not be worth reconsidering?
> Regards
> Rod
> ---------------------------------------------------------
> Roderic Page
> Professor of Taxonomy
> Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health and Comparative Medicine College
> Medical, Veterinary and Life Sciences Graham Kerr Building University of
> Glasgow Glasgow G12 8QQ, UK
> Email: r.page at bio.gla.ac.uk
> Tel: +44 141 330 4778
> Fax: +44 141 330 2792
> Skype: rdmpage
> AIM: rodpage1962 at aim.com
> Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1112517192
> Twitter: http://twitter.com/rdmpage
> Blog: http://iphylo.blogspot.com
> Home page: http://taxonomy.zoology.gla.ac.uk/rod/rod.html
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