[Taxacom] Neoromicia nanus or Neoromicia nana?

Doug Yanega dyanega at ucr.edu
Fri Jan 10 16:39:45 CST 2014

On 1/10/14 1:46 PM, Alex Borisenko wrote:
> I would appreciate hearing expert views on a nomenclatural issue related to a common bat species - the African banana bat. Originally described as Vespertilio nanus Peters, 1852, it has since been tossed into the genus Pipistrellus and, most recently, Neoromicia.
> Currently, the global mammal checklist uses the name "Neoromicia nanus": http://www.departments.bucknell.edu/biology/resources/msw3/browse.asp?s=y&id=13802268
> However, a recent article proposes to use "Neoromicia nana", based on the fact that the gender of the generic epithet is feminine: http://www.italian-journal-of-mammalogy.it/article/view/4427
> This new 'feminine' spelling gradually becomes entrenched in regional literature, but not in the global checklists.
> I was unable to find the word 'nanus' in online Latin dictionaries.

> Do I understand correctly that, albeit sounding Latin, it is actually a derivative from the Greek 'νᾶνος ' ('dwarf') and, as such, should be treated as a noun in apposition, thus falling under ICZN Art. 31.2.1.?
> If so, would 'Neoromicia nanus' be the correct spelling? If not, can you please suggest the proper grammatic rules that would apply in this case?
> PS I deliberately aim to avoid the other nomenclatural and taxonomic issues that plague this species (or, more likely, species complex). Thanks for your suggestions.
Strictly speaking, "nanus" does indeed appear to be a Latin noun based 
on Greek (http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/nanus), and if originally 
spelled in this way, should be treated as indeclinable under Code Art. 
31.2.1 in the present case, therefore remaining "nanus". If it had been 
given as "nana" in the original spelling (e.g., "Tinkerbella nana", just 
recently described) it still apparently would be considered a noun 
(http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/nana#Latin), and thus also indeclinable.

The main reason this is confusing is that various people HAVE, over 
historical time, treated the term (when used for other taxa) as if it 
were an adjective - possibly because nanus and nana are both viable 
epithets, and people mistakenly assumed they were adjectival forms of 
the same word. This is unfortunate, at best, and - under other 
circumstances - potentially a lot more contentious. Before others chime 
in with complaints over gender agreement, bear in mind that with the 
development of ZooBank, it is possible to include a field in the name 
registration process that requires any epithet to be registered 
explicitly as to whether it is a noun or an adjective, so it won't 
require debates by future generations of taxonomists. They can just look 
it up. Cleaning up the historical names in a similar fashion, through 
retrospective registration, is not as difficult as one might think.


Doug Yanega      Dept. of Entomology       Entomology Research Museum
Univ. of California, Riverside, CA 92521-0314     skype: dyanega
phone: (951) 827-4315 (disclaimer: opinions are mine, not UCR's)
   "There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness
         is the true method" - Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chap. 82

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