[Taxacom] BioNames and others names

Richard Pyle deepreef at bishopmuseum.org
Sun Jun 2 03:41:10 CDT 2013

> > Stephen is wrong about "Lots".  But I don't blame him.  The reason it
> > seems like "lots" is, ultimately, the same reason almost no two people
> > agree on what a "taxon name" is. [...]
> ***
> This must be a good candidate for "Most Gross Exaggeration of the Year".
> There will be wide agreement (likely a comfortable majority) that the
> scientific name of a taxon, in the case of a species is the binomial /
> or in the case of a lower ranking taxon the trinomial / trinomen.

Ha!  Good one, Paul.  Talk about "Gross Exaggeration"!  I know it *seems*
like it should be this simple, but it's not.  When you examine all the
different databases out there, you'll find that it's *VERY* rare to find two
databases that have a simple 1:1 relationship between a "name" record in
one, to a "name" record in another.

Here's a very simple example:  How many "names" are included the list below?

Anthias (Pseudanthias)
Anthias ventralis
Anthias hawaiiensis
Anthias hawaiensis
Anthias (Pseudanthias) ventralis
Anthias (Pseudanthias) hawaiiensis
Pseudanthias ventralis
Pseudanthis ventralis
Pseudanthias hawaiiensis
Pseudanthias ventralis ventralis
Pseudanthias ventralis hawaiiensis
Pseudanthias ventralus hawaiiensis
Pseudanthias (Pseudanthias) ventralis ventralis
Pseudanthias (Pseudanthias) ventralis hawaiiensis

We'll start the bidding at "4", and see where we go from there.

And this is just a very simple example.  It doesn't even take into account
how different people interpret the issue of Code-compliance when counting,
or not counting, something as a "name". It also doesn't take into account
the question of whether two homonyms are the "same" name, or "different"
names.  To answer any of these questions, most people would start with,
"Well, it depends on what you mean by 'name'..." -- which is *exactly* my

> But under the ICNafp there is no confusion on these points, so these are
> strictly localized sources of confusion.

Too bad that botanical names represent such a small fraction of the taxa
that are out there....

> It looks to me that the big real source of confusion is (and remains) that
> taxonomy is (and remains) dynamic, and that there are so many who claim
> that there is only one single correct taxonomic point of view (namely,

Yes, that's part of the problem, to be sure.  That's why it's important to
have a system that tracks facts -- including facts *about* asserted
opinions. And then a layer on top of that set of facts upon which more
dynamic opinions can be expressed, changed, etc.

> > The exact same thing is happening in taxon-name-database sphere.  To
> > an outside observer, it might appear that what Catalog of Life, and
> > Encyclopedia of Life, and GBIF, and Bionames, and ION, and Global
> > Names Architecture, and ZooBank, and IPNI, and Tropicos, and Index
> > Fungorum, and any of dozens of other nomenclators, species indexers,
> > checklist-makers, etc. are all "doing the same thing".
> ***
> Of these, only Tropicos appears to be mapping different taxonomic usages.

First of all, I should point out that the "U" in "GNUB" (part of the Global
Names Architecture) stands for "Usage" (ahem....).  That aside, most good
nomenclators have some way of documenting usages. Also, many of the things
that a botanist would call a "name", a zoologist would think of as a usage.


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