NEREIDAE vs. Nereididae, final round?

Petersen Mary E {ZMUC} mepetersen at
Sun Aug 4 23:33:00 EST 1996

Sunday, 4 August 1996


Although the question of Nereidae vs. Nereididae has been brought up
several times, many of us were still confused, and useage has continued
to be divided.  In connection with a direct query from Paulo Lana earlier
this year, unaware of Alex Muir's reply to Mauricio Camargo, I checked
what I could find and sent the information on to Dr. Yuri P. Nekrutenko
<YPNekrut at>, a frequent contributor to TAXACOM,
especially in questions involving correct use of Latin in zoological
nomenclature.  Yuri reviewed the information sent and wrote back that
there could be no doubt that the correct form of the family name must be
NEREIDAE. I sent his reply to Paulo and did not give the matter any more

Recently the subject came up again, and Alex Muir has provided us with
some of the background for the original introduction of the longer
version NEREIDIDAE, first used in 1971 by Marian Pettibone, and based on
a recommendation by Mr. Melville:

>   "When the Americans first started putting Nereis in the Nereididae
>  rather than the Nereidae, I decided to check it out. I found that, in Greek
> mythology, Nereis was one of the Nereides - the 50 sea-nymph daughters of
>   Nereus (a god of the sea) and his wife Doris.
>     The generic name Nereis is therefore obviously feminine, but not being
>   a Greek scholar I could not work out the termination of the grammatical
>   stem for use in forming derivatives (see page 223 of the 1985 edition of
>   the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature). I therefore spoke to
>   Mr. Melville (then Secretary to the ICZN), who assured me that under the
>   circumstances NEREIDIDAE is the correct spelling for the family name.

In connection with a new query about the correct version, I forwarded to
Yuri the information sent by Alex and asked if this perhaps would give a
different result.  Yuri's reply is given below and indicates that the
more widely used NEREIDAE still appears to be the CORRECT version and
that the longer Nereididae cannot really be considered such.

>   Friday, 2 August 1996
>Dear Mary,
>     Well, let us start from zero. Nereus (m.) >  one  of  his 50 daughters
>is Nereis (f. sing. nom.); Nereidis (f. sing. gen.) > all 50  are  Nereidos
>(f. pl. nom.) > Nereidae (family name) -  it is 3rd  declension.  Generally
>saying, the family name spelling may depend rather  on  good taste than  on
>good  grammatical background  so   that Nereid-ae   is   far  better   than
>"parascientific" Nereid-idae.

Best regards to all,

Mary E. Petersen
Zoological Museum, University of Copenhagen
mepetersen at

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