|Proposed Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
27 questions from 8 Respondents (plus miscellanea) as of 16 May 2013
- What is the proper gender ending on a specific epithet, to agree with the generic name? When does it have to be plural (e.g., -orum instead of –i)?
- When coining a new generic or specific name out of separate roots, what is the proper sequence to assemble them in (e.g., Phoc- + -africana, or Afro- + -phoca)? Or does it matter?
- The Code says to put a comma after the author of a name and before the date (e.g., Xus yus Linnaeus, 1758), but many journal editors don't want to use this style. Or, they want to put the author and date in parentheses, like an ordinary literature citation in a text, when that implies something about the authorship of the name that is not appropriate (because they don't know the rules of nomenclature). Then what?
- Is it ever proper to use the ending -ensis in a species epithet based on the name of a person, or only with the name of a place? [Only with a place name!]
- How do I avoid creating a homonym?
- How important is it to get the Latin grammar right?
- I work on protists that have been treated as animals and plants, how do I deal with the names that have been introduced in compliance with the botanical code?
- I have been hearing about electronic registration, what is this all about?
- I have been hearing about ePublication, what is this all about?
- Is there a listserve where I can raise nomenclatural questions?
- I have found an old and little used name that takes priority, but its use would destabilize a hundred years of a familiar pattern of use. Should I advocate for the older name, or what?
William D. Anderson, Jr.:
- Where do I find the correct spellings of names?
- Where do I find the "best" classification above the familial level?
- How do I find obscure literature?
- How do I determine the dates of publication for literature in which the dates associated with the publication are vague or unreliable?
- How do I deal with situations in which there are no known types?
- How do I deal with a situation in which there is no holotype—only syntypes?
- In selecting a lectotype, how do I decide which syntype to designate?
- Is the type species of a genus the first (earliest) named species in the genus? Or, the converse of this statement.
- Why did the generic name change?
- Does the author's name go in parentheses or not?
- The biggest problem I have is in gender agreement with recombinations and the resulting spelling of the species name. I wish we could delete this gender agreement of the code and use original spellings in any subsequent combination. Many catalogs and checklists are now doing this, ignoring the Code.
- I have a bunch of nomenclatorial problems that I inherited from exams when in grad school. I have passed some of these on to my students. I think this website should develop a page on nomenclatorial problems that are presented in the form of questions for students.
The two main questions I get from colleagues are "why did the generic name change" and "does the author's name go in parentheses or not."
Yes, such questions arise regularly showing that even basic aspects of zoology are no longer taught. Generic names change because scientific names reflect scientific progress. An impressive number of colleagues don't seem to understand that taxonomy is a science. We also have to accomodate that people do not want to research easy questions (such as the parentheses one) by looking it up in the Code. Yes, the Code is not an enjoyable read, but easy questions are easily to be answered by looking them up in the Code (which is even online, hence accessible for all). Many colleagues do not want to invest time in nomenclatural or taxonomic questions which are often seen as being below their level of scientific scholarship. They do not want to lower themselves into those catacombes of old-fashioned bureaucracy. I am pretty clear for myself what such attitude says about their level of scholarship, BUT we have to serve those people. Those are a part of our usergroup. So a bunch of 'student questions', starting with very simple ones, is a good idea. The answers to those questions can be surprisingly simple, too - which in turn would show that the basic rules of nomenclature are simple and easy.
"The biggest problem I have is in gender agreement with recombinations and the resulting spelling of the species name. I wish we could delete this gender agreement of the code and use original spellings in any subsequent combination. Many catalogs and checklists are now doing this, ignoring the Code."
I would like to know which catalogues, apart from some Lepidopterists' ones, do that. Abandoning gender agreement causes an immense work, because one would have to consult the original description of every single species to find out what the original spelling/ending was. It needs to be done only once (if done carefully and published comprehensively), but we there are a lot of species on our planet to be catalogued. In the absence of catalogues that have verified original spellings, abandoning gender agreement would be a huge challenge.
David L. Wagner:
If you look up the original orthography, it need only be done once. Unfortunately, genus-species combinations are inherently unstable. Generic lumping and splitting, even with a stable species-level phylogeny that we all agree on, could go and will go on in perpetuity. Who will spend four years studying a problem, sequence six new genes, and conclude that everything was just fine the way it was?
Sophora and Drosophila might be a good place to start. If not, take another generic/subgeneric set. With our current system it seems that Latin binomials are neither stable nor unique (Drosophila melanogaster and Sophora melanogaster could both be considered valid by different spheres of researchers) and thus scientific names can violate 2 of the 3 goals set forth in the Preamble to the Code, i.e., that names be stable, unique, and universal. I hope I am wrong. I want to be wrong! Help me Frank.
Yes, I am a lepidopterist.
Daphne G. Fautin:
Is a thesis or dissertation considered published, in the sense of the Code? Yes, so nomenclatural acts (including new names) in it are available.
Ascidiae by Haeckel