[Taxacom] Binomial Nomenclature - was: "cataloguing hypotheses & not real things"

Paul Kirk P.Kirk at kew.org
Mon Sep 2 09:37:03 CDT 2013

UUIDs to link things for computers and a dismabiguation layer at the computer-human interface is the answer - they are explicitly used (i.e. exposed) by ZooBank, they are implicitly used (i.e. not yet exposed) by Index Fungorum and are likely to be implemented by nomenclators in other 'domains' ... they are at the core of the GNA (GNI-GNUB) project. Lets not try to fix things when they are not broken.

In haste,


-----Original Message-----
From: taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu [mailto:taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu] On Behalf Of David Campbell
Sent: 02 September 2013 15:22
Cc: taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] Binomial Nomenclature - was: "cataloguing hypotheses & not real things"

An advantage of a multinomial system (whether or not each multinomial can
change) is that it provides many more combinations than a single string of letters.  In taxonomic practice, this allows common adjectives to be applied to many different genus names while maintaining a difference.

There are at least three challenges to establishing a different system.
First is the accumulated tradition of over 250 years.  A new system must have adequate compatibility with that tradition to have workable connections to the existing literature, in addition to the problem of individual or group unwillingness to change.  Secondly, we have the tradition that the genus name tells us something about the affinities of the organism, and dropping that tradition would significantly change the function of a scientific name.  Thirdly, there is the difficulty of finding a new system that is not significantly unwieldy.  Far too many of the Phylocode-type proposals for major modifications to the current system either do not take a realistic approach to the existing literature (e.g., assuming that homonymous species epithets rarely occur in the same publication, or even rarely in the same phylum) or else seem to have forgotten that not all users of the system are computers (just make Pinus albus Pinus_albus2378595678XYGD438756 and everything will be fine).  Such unwieldy strings are not only hard for humans to remember but hard to error-check.

Perhaps the best of both worlds is to have a unique computer tag for each proposed name, linkable to whatever traditional-style binomen a given taxonomist believes to be appropriate.
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