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Nomenclature :

is a system of names or terms, or the rules for forming these terms in a particular
field of arts or sciences. The principles of naming vary from the relatively informal
conventions of everyday speech to the internationally agreed principles, rules and
recommendations that govern the formation and use of the specialist terms used
in scientific and any other disciplines.

Naming "things" is a part of general human communication using words and

language: it is an aspect of everyday taxonomy as people distinguish the objects of
their experience, together with their similarities and differences, which observers
identify, name and classify. The use of names, as the many different kinds of
nouns embedded in different languages, connects nomenclature to theoretical
linguistics, while the way humans mentally structure the world in relation to word
meanings and experience relates to the philosophy of language.

Onomastics, the study of proper names and their origins, includes

anthroponymy (concerned with human names, including personal names,
surnames and nicknames); toponymy (the study of place names) and etymology
(the derivation, history and use of names) as revealed through comparative and
descriptive linguistics.

The scientific need for simple, stable and internationally accepted systems for
naming objects of the natural world has generated many formal nomenclatural
systems. Probably the best known of these nomenclatural systems are the five
codes of biological nomenclature that govern the Latinized scientific names of

International Code of Zoological Nomenclature

The International Code of Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN) is a widely accepted
convention in zoology that rules the formal scientific naming of organisms treated
as animals. It is also informally known as the ICZN Code, for its publisher, the
International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature (which shares the acronym
"ICZN"). The rules principally regulate:

How names are correctly established in the frame of binominal nomenclature

1. Which name must be used in case of name conflicts
2. How scientific literature must cite names
3. Zoological nomenclature is independent of other systems of nomenclature, for
example botanical nomenclature. This implies that animals can have the same
generic names as plants.

The rules and recommendations have one fundamental aim: to provide the
maximum universality and continuity in the naming of all animals, except where
taxonomic judgment dictates otherwise. The code is meant to guide only the
nomenclature of animals, while leaving zoologists freedom in classifying new taxa.
In other words, whether a species itself is or is not a recognized entity is a
subjective decision, but what name should be applied to it is not. The code applies
only to the latter. A new animal 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 valid for any taxon in the family
group, genus group, and species group. It has additional (but more limited)
provisions on names in higher ranks. The code recognizes no case law. Any dispute
is decided first by applying the code directly, and not by reference to precedent.
The code is also retroactive or retrospective, which means that previous editions
of the code, or previous other rules and conventions have no force any more
today, and the nomenclatural acts published 'back in the old times' must be
evaluated only under the present edition of the code. In cases of disputes
concerning the interpretation, the usual procedure is to consult the French Code,
lastly a case can be brought to the commission who has the right to publish a final

In regulating the names of animals it holds by six central principles, which were
first set out (as principles) in the third edition of the code (1985):

Principle of binominal nomenclature:

This is the principle that the scientific name of a species, and not of a taxon at any
other rank, is a combination of two names; the use of a trinomen for the name of
a subspecies and of uninominal names for taxa above the species group is in
accord with this principle.

This means that in the system of nomenclature for animals, the name of a species
is composed of a combination of a generic name and a specific name; together
they make a "binomen". No other rank can have a name composed of two names.

Species Giraffa camelopardalis

Subspecies have a name composed of three names, a "trinomen": generic name,
specific name, subspecific name:
Subspecies Giraffa camelopardalis rothschildi
Taxa at a rank above species have a name composed of one name, a "uninominal
Genus Giraffa, family Giraffidae
In botanical nomenclature, the equivalent for "binominal nomenclature" is "binary
nomenclature" (or sometimes "binomial nomenclature").

Principle of priority:

This is the principle that the correct formal scientific name for an animal taxon,
the valid name, correct to use, is the oldest available name that applies to it. It is
the most important principle—the fundamental guiding precept that preserves
zoological nomenclature stability. It was first formulated in 1842 by a committee
appointed by the British Association to consider the rules of zoological
nomenclature. Hugh Edwin Strickland wrote the committee's report.


Nunneley 1837 established Limax maculatus (Gastropoda), Wiktor 2001 classified

it as a junior synonym of Limax maximus Linnæus 1758 from S and W Europe.
Limax maximus was established first, so if Wiktor's 2001 classification is accepted,
Limax maximus takes precedence over Limax maculatus and must be used for the
There are approximately 2-3 million cases of this kind for which this principle is
applied in zoology.

Principle of coordination:
The principle of coordination is that within the family group, genus group and
species group, a name established for a taxon at any rank in the group is
simultaneously established with the same author and date for taxa based on the
same name-bearing type at other ranks in the corresponding group.In other
words, publishing a new zoological name automatically and simultaneously
establishes all corresponding names in the relevant other ranks with the same

In the species-group, publishing a species name (the binomen) Giraffa

camelopardalis Linnaeus, 1758 also establishes the subspecies name (the
trinomen) Giraffa camelopardalis camelopardalis Linnaeus, 1758. The same
applies to the name of a subspecies; this establishes the corresponding species

In the genus-group, similarly, publishing the name of a genus also establishes the
corresponding name of a subgenus (or vice versa): genus Giraffa Linnaeus, 1758
and subgenus Giraffa (Giraffa) Linnaeus, 1758.

In the family-group, publication of the name of a family, subfamily, superfamily (or

any other such rank) also establishes the names in all the other ranks in the family
group (family Giraffidae, superfamily Giraffoidea, subfamily Giraffinae).

Author citations for such names (for example a subgenus) are the same as for the
name actually published (for example a genus). It is immaterial if there is an actual
taxon to which the automatically established name applies; if ever such a taxon is
recognised, there is a name available for it.

Principle of homonymy:
This is the principle that the name of each taxon must be unique. Consequently, a
name that is a junior homonym of another name must not be used as a valid

It means that any one animal name, in one particular spelling, may be used only
once (within its group). This is usually the first-published name; any later name
with the same spelling (a homonym) is barred from being used. The principles of
priority and first reviser apply here. For family-group names the termination
(which is rank-bound) is not taken into account.

Genera are homonyms only if exactly the same — a one-letter difference is

enough to distinguish them.


Argus Poli, 1791 (Bivalvia)

Argus Temminck, 1807 (Aves)
Argus Lamarck, 1817 (Lepidoptera: Hesperiidae)

People naturally give names to the organisms they come across, but due to
differences in language, region, and knowledge, the same species may go by many
different common names, or the same name may be used to refer to several
different species. In order to have a record of all the species that have been
discovered, and to make it possible to precisely communicate about them, a
formal scientific process for naming and describing species has been developed
over the course of history.

The process for naming species:

Species are considered scientifically described when they have been given a two-
part Latin name and have had a description published in a peer-reviewed scientific
The scientific name and description serve as the universal, formal reference for
future identification. The description also includes information about the type
material, which is an actual preserved individual of the species. This specimen is
usually the one on which the description is based and is stored in a museum or
collection, to be accessed if necessary to serve as a real-life reference.

Sometimes the type material is an illustration or photograph, if the organism in

question is very rare or threatened. Since type material also typically contains
detailed information about the location and date that the specimen was collected
and the name of the collector, it can serve as a historical artifact as well. For
example, sampling tissue from museum specimens of sea birds can provide
evidence that environmental levels of mercury have risen over time.

Describing new species:

In order to describe a new species, scientists must carry out a thorough
investigation to make sure that the species has, in fact, not yet been described.
This often involves consulting with other experts on the particular taxon, visiting
museums and collections to examine voucher specimens, reviewing the historical
literature, and carrying out DNA sequencing.

Once it has been determined that the species has not previously been named, the
scientist must select a name and write a description. The name must follow
certain Latin grammatical rules (though these allow room for creativity) and can
be simple, descriptive, geographic, commemorative (i.e. named after a person),
nonsensical, or some combination.

The description includes a thorough listing of physical characteristics, including

variation in these that the scientist has observed in the population. These proceed
from general to specific (e.g. first describing overall shape and size, then
proceeding to describe each body part in more detail) and pay special attention to
those characteristics that can be used to distinguish it from other species. The
description needs to be both scientifically objective and visually vivid, which
means that writing it “combines two of the most difficult types of writing: the
technical description and the poem” (Winston). The conventions for different taxa
( International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants (ICN), the
International Code of Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN), or the International Code
of Nomenclature of Bacteria (ICNB)) provide vocabularies and specialized
terminologies that are used in some fields.

Rule 1: Start with an optimal specimen:

Every new species description has to have a specimen – real physical material that
you are describing. This specimen is forever the name bearer and therefore the
international standard of reference. New species are usually represented by more
than a single specimen; it is the multiple specimens that you must consider as
forming the new species, but the new name is linked to a single specimen. Your
duty is to work through the specimens and then, based on your knowledge, select
the specimen that optimally represents the new species. The specimen will
become known as the type, also known as the holotype or hapantotype (Rule 2
will help you to decipher the jargon associated with the new species description).
Specimens used for description need to be deposited in publicly available

Rule 2: Get familiar with the jargon – don’t mix nomenclature with
species concepts:
Nomenclature is a system of naming of species, which are then classified in an
ordered system – taxonomy. Nomenclature covers the rules how names are
formed. These rules are mandatory and are defined by the International Code of
Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN, 1999) or the International Code of Nomenclature
for algae, fungi, and plants (ICN, 2012). The rules are objective. If you plan to
describe a parasitic species you should, in the majority of cases, be familiar with
the ICZN code. Don’t expect that all will be clear at first. For now, read the
introduction of the ICZN and be familiar with the glossary. The specimens used for
the description, apart from the holotype, are called paratypes. If males and
females occur, then the equivalent of the holotype (usually but not always male)
is the allotype. For single-celled organisms (protists), selecting a single specimen
can be very tricky and often virtually impossible. Therefore, a preparation of life
cycle stages or a culture of more than one individual is used and termed the
hapantotype. This hapantotype is then the holotype of a protist species. One key
issue is not regulated by the ICZN – it is what constitutes a species itself. There are
many species concepts that are competing for general acceptance.

Rule 3: Aim high – the new species deserves it:

To know the standard of description. Prepare the best description you can, don’t
omit an analysis if it has been used in the past for species in a genus to which you
are adding an undescribed species. Know your organisms, in other words, make
sure you have done your homework and have collected all the previous published
descriptions within the genus (more on older species and names in Rule 4) and, if
possible, examined type specimens. Avoid tunnel vision, know the standard for
new species descriptions in at least two related groups of organisms and learn
from it. Don’t limit yourself to the usual standard of descriptions which
characterise the group in which you may be working. These standards are
subjective and tend to change over time.

Rule 4: All previously described names must be considered:

Even poorly described names that meet the minimal ICZN criteria (e.g., published
description) have to be considered and cannot be ignored a priori. Absence of
type material does not mean the name and species do not exist. Only a name that
lacks a description or definition is nomen nudum (a naked name).

Rule 5: State why you are describing a new species:

Publishing simply for its own sake should be avoided. New species are not hard to
find, but making sense of the evolution and degree of diversity should be your
aim. Understand the ecological role of the species and, in the case of parasites,
relevance to animal or human health should be examined before the species is
named. Practice by explaining to your colleagues your reasoning before you write
the first draft. Then review and write it again.
Rule 6: Send your description to a journal that will make your
description visible to your audience:
Pick a journal that has a history of publishing taxonomical works. Study the author
instructions; see if they welcome taxonomical works. Some do, some don’t and
some do if the new species is of some significance. You can choose any journal to
publish your description, no matter if it is an online-only journal (Zhang, 2012;
ICZN, 2012). But if you do use an online-only journal, you are required to register
the new name in ZooBank. The new name must appear for the first time in a
formal publication. Journal publication is the only acceptable channel for
introducing new species and names.

Rule 7: Don’t put the cart before the horse:

Don’t rush with your description, which should be the culmination of your work –
not the start. Treat your work with extreme care. If you can analyse additional
feature(s), then do so. Sequels to descriptions should be avoided as journals are
not interested in publishing such material. Treat data equally. It is increasingly
common these days to use DNA data as traditional work is considered too
“complicated”, too labour-intensive, or difficult to do at the level of quality the
species deserves. Do that extra work, because the “complicated” part, i.e.
comparative morphological and ecology, often leads to a reward, namely that you
will be greatly respected by your colleagues, reviewers and journal editors.

Rule 8: Use illustrations and photographs effectively:

Descriptions always come with illustrations of the holotype as well as allotype (if
known) of new species. Use illustrations to demonstrate characteristic features of
the species and those features that characterise the group to which your new
species belongs. In addition to holotype (and allotype), other specimens in the
type series can be used for illustrations. Photographs of specimens are useful in
any description, but these need to be of the highest quality. Photographs can be
presented as a series accompanying your illustration; often scanning electron
microscopy (SEM) or differential interference contrast light microscopy (DIC) are
used. Remember, naming a new species is evidence-based research. If you’re
describing a key feature, then you need to demonstrate it using a photograph or
line drawing. It is the role of the reviewers and journal editors to scrutinise the
evidence. In some circumstances, e.g., large nematodes and cestodes, line
drawings are the most appropriate ways to document a holotype rather than a
photograph. In other circumstances, e.g., blood parasites, a photograph of a
stained blood smear is accompanied by a line drawing of a hapantotype. In this
case, the photograph serves not only for the purpose to document a type but also
its type locality.

Rule 9: Tell the world how to objectively differentiate your new

species from other similar species:
Once you have selected your holotype (Rule 1), described type series (Rule 3),
photographed and illustrated the new species (Rule 8), you are required to
provide information to distinguish it from other species represented by other
specimens. The new species is placed in the correct genus and differentiated from
other species (ideally all) within the genus. This is provided in the compulsory
remarks, or differential diagnosis, section of the manuscript introducing new
species. The remarks should serve a purpose as outlined in Rule 5. The approach
you take should be inclusive of species you consider in your comparative work,
not exclusive. For example, the use of DNA analysis, if no other related species has
been characterised, is not sufficient. You will need to first demonstrate the within-
species DNA diversity and characterise the same DNA marker(s) for related
species to argue that between species DNA diversity differentiates your new
species. You can use second-hand DNA data in the DNA repositories, but be wary
of the quality because only the submitters are responsible for quality control
(Harris, 2003). As with the DNA, treat the type locality cautiously; objective
differentiation should be based on evidence, not an assumption. The type locality
for parasites is not just the geographical place of capture of the type host, but also
the type host species itself and the host tissue parasitised. Exercise great caution
and rule out the possibility that the parasite has not been acquired elsewhere. It is
worth noting that not all of what is in the gastrointestinal tract and resembles a
parasite is the host’s parasite, because parasites of their prey may pass intact
through the gastrointestinal tract. For captive hosts, the new parasite could have
been acquired during transport or even at the final destination because
monitoring and quarantine measures during the import/export of live animals
may be weak or absent. Last but not least, naming the type host using its common
and scientific name should be mandatory and, if possible, the type host specimen
(symbiotype) should be deposited in a museum.

Rule 10: Give a memorable name:

Don’t be afraid to find a colleague who has some knowledge of Latin or Greek to
help you with the selection of a new name. The formation of new names is
governed by the rules of Latin grammar, so talk to someone who is familiar with
basics of this grammar. Not all editors or reviewers know enough Latin or Greek to
correct errors for you. It is your role to get this right. Avoid the embarrassment of
naming it incorrectly; unfortunately fixing incorrect names later is very
cumbersome. Make it right the first time. Last, but not least, etymology should be
mandatory – explain how you derived the name and what it means. The name you
choose is up to you, but make it simple and don’t be afraid to use a characteristic
feature of your species as the name.