- International Code of Zoological Nomenclature
The International Code of Zoological Nomenclature is a set of rules in
zoologythat have one fundamental aim: to provide the maximum universality and continuity in the naming of all animals according to taxonomic judgment. The Code is meant to guide only the nomenclature of animals, while leaving the zoologists some degree of freedom in classifying new speciesand higher-level taxa. In other words, whether a species itself is or is not a real entity is a subjective decision, but what name should be applied to it is not; the Code applies only to the latter, not to the former. A new taxon name published without adherence to the Code may be deemed simply "unavailable" if it fails to meet certain criteria, or fall entirely out of the province of science (e.g., the "scientific name" for the Loch Ness Monster).
The rules in the Code determine what names are potentially valid for any taxon including the ranks of
subspeciesand superfamily. Its provisions can be waived or modified in their application to a particular case when strict adherence would cause confusion. Such exceptions are not made by an individual scientist, no matter how well-respected within his or her field, but only by the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature(ICZN), acting on behalf of all zoologists. The Commission takes such action in response to proposals submitted to it. Note that, formally, the acronym "ICZN" refers to the Commission, and not the Code. Misapplications of the acronym are pervasive, however, and even taxonomists will use the acronym occasionally when referring to the Code.
The Code recognizes no
case law. Any dispute is decided by applying the Code directly, and never by reference to precedent.
Rules and examples of their application
The first published name of an organism or group takes priority; later names for that organism or group are junior synonyms and are not considered valid.
John Edward Graypublished the name "Antilocapra anteflexa" in 1855 for a species of pronghorn, based on a pair of horns. However, it is now thought that his specimen was an unusual individual of the species "Antilocapra americana" published by George Ordin 1815. Ord's name thus takes priority, with "Antilocapra anteflexa" being a junior synonym.
Johann Jakob Kauppublished the name "Leptocephalus brevirostris" in 1856 for a species of eel. However, it was realized in 1893 that the organism described by Kaup was in fact the juvenile form of the European eel(see eel life historyfor the full story). The European eel was named "Muraena anguilla" by Carolus Linnaeusin 1758 and moved to the genus "Anguilla" by Franz Paula von Schrankin 1798. So "Anguilla anguilla" is now the valid name for the species, and "Leptocephalus brevirostris" is considered a junior synonym.
The first published use of a name takes priority; later uses of a name spelled the same but used to refer to different organisms are junior homonyms and must be given replacement names.
Georges Cuvierproposed the genus "Echidna" in 1797 for the spiny anteater. However, Johann Reinhold Forsterhad published the name "Echidna" in 1777 for a genus of moray eels. Forster's use thus has priority, with Cuvier's being a junior homonym; Johann Karl Wilhelm Illigerpublished the name "Tachyglossus" in 1811 and this is considered to be the valid replacement name, or " nomen novum".
The first published description of a species fixes the species epithet; if the species is later moved to another genus, it retains the first-published epithet unless that would create a homonym.
Common Chimpanzeewas named "Simia troglodytes" by Johann Friedrich Blumenbachin 1799; Lorenz Okenmoved it to the new genus "Pan" in 1816, so the valid name is now "Pan troglodytes".
* Two species of
Madagascarsnake were given the species epithet "madagascariensis" by André Marie Constant Dumériland Gabriel Bibronin 1844 — "Pelophilus madagascariensis" and "Xiphosoma madagascariensis". George Albert Boulengermoved the former to the genus "Boa" in 1893, giving it the name "Boa madagascariensis". This meant that when Arnold G. Klugeof the Museum of Zoology at the University of Michiganmoved "Xiphosoma madagascariensis" to the genus "Boa" in 1991, the name "Boa madagascariensis" was invalid — a junior secondary homonym. So Kluge gave the species the replacement name " Boa manditra". This example also demonstrates a case where rules of gender agreement come into play (a tradition which has become more controversial in recent years). That is, an adjectival species epithet must - with very few exceptions - agree in gender with the name of the genus in which it is placed. If a species is moved, therefore, often it must have its spelling changed as a result. The genus name "Xiphosoma" is neuter in gender, and therefore the original spelling of the species should have been "madagascariense", which is the neuter form - the spelling change to "madagascariensis" would occur only after being placed in "Boa". Epithets that are nouns, or arbitrary combinations of letters, are not changed, but this is not always obvious from the appearance of a name, as in "manditra", which is a noun, and would not change if, for example, it were moved to the genus "Pelophilus" (it would become "Pelophilus manditra" and not "Pelophilus manditrus"). Changes in placement, or confusion over proper Latin grammar, lead to many incorrectly-formed names appearing in print, and automated searches failing to find all the variant spellings of a given name (e.g., the epithets "atra" and "ater" may refer to the same species). Accordingly, many laymen and some scientists object to the continued adherence to this long-standing practice.
In the interests of stability of nomenclature, the rule of priority can be reversed if a junior name has been used very widely and for a long period of time.
Carolus Linnaeusnamed the Domestic Cat"Felis catus" in 1758; Johann Christian Daniel von Schrebernamed the Wildcat"Felis silvestris" in 1775. For taxonomists who consider these two kinds of cat to be a single species rule of priority means that the species ought to be named "F. catus" but in practice almost all biologists have used "F. silvestris" for the wild cat. In 2003, the Commission issued a ruling that "conserved the usage of 17 specific names based on wild species, which are pre-dated by or contemporary with those based on domestic forms", confirming "F. silvestris" for the wild cat, as a " nomen protectum". Taxonomists who consider the domesticated cat a subspecies of the wild cat should use "F. silvestris catus"; the name "F. catus" remains available for the domestic cat where it is considered to be a separate species. [cite journal |date= 2003-03-31|title=Opinion 2027 (Case 3010): Usage of 17 specific names based on wild species which are pre-dated by or contemporary with those based on domestic animals (Lepidoptera, Osteichthyes, Mammalia) |journal=Bulletin of Zoological Nomenclature |volume=60 |issue=1 |publisher= International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature|url=http://www.nhm.ac.uk/hosted_sites/iczn/BZNMar2003opinions.htm#opinion2027 |accessdate=2008-10-08]
International Code of Botanical Nomenclature
* [http://www.iczn.org/ ICZN website]
* [http://www.iczn.org/iczn/index.jsp Text of the code]
* [http://www.zoobank.org ZooBank: The World Register of Animal Names]
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