[Taxacom] ICZN - gender of genus-group name ending in -ops

Margaret Thayer mthayer at fieldmuseum.org
Sun May 15 18:35:12 CDT 2016

Dear colleagues,

​I sent the message below to iczn-list at afriherp.org on 28 April, but it
apparently never appeared there (is that list still active?), nor did it
bounce back to me. I decided to try taxacom to see if anyone has comments
on this situation.

In discussions with a student researcher who is working on the histerid
beetle genus *Carcinops*, I found that there have been conflicting
interpretations of its gender over the decades. *Carcinops* was described
by Marseul in 1855 as being derived from *καρκίνος*, crabe [*carcinus*,
crab]; *ὤψ *, figure [*ops*, figure, face, countenance, *ὤψ* being nearly
always treated as feminine in classical Greek according to Liddell &
Scott's Greek Lexicon]. Marseul used masculine (or common) gender for his
adjectival species names in that and subsequent works. Three other authors
continued that usage and described more species with masculine endings
until Lewis in 1888 (without comment) switched to treating the generic name
as feminine. Several additional species have been described since then, and
all but one of the adjectival names (proposed by three different authors)
have been treated as feminine.

Article 30.1 of the Code clearly applies, but is potentially a little
ambiguous. [Code text in black]
*30.1.* *Gender of names formed from Latin or Greek words.*  Subject to the
exceptions specified in Article 30.1.4

... 30.1.2. a genus-group name that is or ends in a Greek word
transliterated into Latin without other changes takes the gender given for
that word in standard Greek dictionaries;

... 30.1.4. The following exceptions apply:

... A compound genus-group name ending in -*ops* is to be treated
as masculine, regardless of its derivation or of its treatment by its

So 30.1.2 argues for feminine; in fact, this might have been the (unstated)
principle Lewis was using. But Al Newton and I both interpret 30.1's
phrasing "Subject to the exceptions ... in ... 30.1.4" to mean that any of
the conditions listed under 30.1.4 *supersede* the general condition in
30.1.2. This would make *Carcinops* masculine instead, reversing the nearly
universal usage of the last 120+ years. My recommendation to the student is
that *Carcinops* should indeed be treated as masculine, with a brief
mention of the history and justification for the change in the
(nearly-submitted) paper.

Does anyone see a hole in my argument that would mean current usage as
feminine should be maintained?

Thanks very much,

Margaret K. Thayer, Ph.D.        mthayer at fieldmuseum.org
Curator Emeritus, Life Sciences, ​Field Museum of Natural History
​Lecturer, Committee on Evolutionary Biology, University of Chicago
1400 South Lake Shore Drive
Chicago IL 60605-2496, USA
PHONE: +1-312-665-7741 (direct)    FAX: +1-312-665-7754
FMNH personal web page <http://fieldmuseum.org/users/margaret-thayer>
Staphylinidae & Staphyliniformia databases
FMNH Insects collection database

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