[Taxacom] Best usage - spp (no period) or spp.?

Stephen Thorpe stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz
Sun Oct 7 23:34:46 CDT 2012

Congrats Tony, you win hands down THE most pointlessly pedantic (and pedantically pointless) thread ever on Taxacom!!
Here's a solution: choose an option, make it explicit, and stick with it ...

From: "Tony.Rees at csiro.au" <Tony.Rees at csiro.au>
To: taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu 
Cc: Daniel.Gledhill at csiro.au; John.Pogonoski at csiro.au; Karen.Gowlett-Holmes at csiro.au 
Sent: Monday, 8 October 2012 5:26 PM
Subject: [Taxacom] Best usage - spp (no period) or spp.?

Dear Taxacomers,

I maintain a database here on marine species in Australian waters (called CAAB) covering largely zoology but also some marine plants, where for many years, those responsible for entering and maintaining the fishes component of the content have consistently preferred "spp" (no trailing period) to indicate recognised taxonomic units comprising multiple species (example: Priacanthus spp") whereas in other groups, editing persons have preferred the trailing period (example: "Chlamys spp.", a genus of bivalves). The proponents of the "no period" form contend that, while "sp." is an abbreviation, and thus legitimately is followed by a period to indicate that some characters have been omitted from that point, "spp" is not (similar to Mrs, cf, and more) and therefore does not.

I have consulted a number of works to ascertain whether it is possible (without breaking heads) to persuade my contributors to standardise on one form or the other. The Zoological and Botanical Codes seem to be silent on the matter, however in the "CBE Scientific Style and Format" manual, 6th ed. is stated:

>> Periods should be retained if they are required by a nomenclatural document of a scientific organization,
>> for example, the International Code of Nomenclature of Bacteria. ...  
>> species -> sp. ("spp.", plural)  [not "sp" ("spp", plural)]

Also I see from this official? Bacteriological site http://www.bacterio.cict.fr/foreword.html the following:

>> Abbreviations and signs used in the "List of Prokaryotic names with Standing in Nomenclature"
>> spp.: species plurales (relating to many species).

So maybe spp is an abbreviation after all and should indeed be followed by a period.

I did look for guidance in David L. Hawksworth's "Terms Used in Bionomenclature" (2010) which has "sp." but surprisingly, no entry for the plural form of the term.

I guess there may be some parallels with other abbreviations/contractions where there is a repeated final letter such as ff (for following pages), pp (for pages), mss (for manuscripts), but also it would be possible to define a special case for scientific nomenclature in any case if desired.

Comments / solutions / the Oracle anyone?

Regards - Tony

Tony Rees
Manager, Divisional Data Centre,
CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research,
GPO Box 1538,
Hobart, Tasmania 7001, Australia
Ph: 0362 325318 (Int: +61 362 325318)
Fax: 0362 325000 (Int: +61 362 325000)
e-mail: Tony.Rees at csiro.au
Manager, OBIS Australia regional node, http://www.obis.org.au/
Biodiversity informatics research activities: http://www.cmar.csiro.au/datacentre/biodiversity.htm
Personal info: http://www.fishbase.org/collaborators/collaboratorsummary.cfm?id=1566
LinkedIn profile: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/tony-rees/18/770/36


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