Nereididae one more time

Perkins, Tom PERKINS_T at
Tue Aug 6 18:13:33 EST 1996

Could any next candidates to air thoughts on this please have mercy
on us & trim the quotes? Thanks, & sorry to intrude Tom.
 -- Annelida Moderator.

Sunday, 4 August 1996

Mary Petersen writes

Although the question of Nereidae vs. Nereididae has been brought up
several times, many of us were still confused, and usage 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,
Dear Annelidans, 

Aware of Dr. Pettibone's use of Nereididae when preparing my paper
"Review of species previously referred to Ceratonereis mirabilis . .
. . . .. . . .  Proceedings of the Biological Society Of Washington 
93(1), 1980, I consulted my colleague James F. Quinn, Jr about that
name.  Quinn, who is an excellent linguist with a thorough knowledge
of the Code, consulted a Greek dictionary and assured me that Dr.
Pettibone was correct.  I was rather hesitant to question Dr.
Pettibone about how she came to use of the name. Now, it seems I am
not alone.  And, perhaps a few of us just do like the sound of it!

I suspect Dr. Pettibone consulted George Steyskal, the Smithsonian's
expert in classical languages and long time associate editor of the
Proceedings about the name.  In any event, I determined to my
satisfaction at the time that she was correct.  

Upon receipt of the above information from  Mary Petersen,  I
consulted Quinn again and he does not agree that the use of
Nereididae is incorrect nomenclature (In reference to the analysis
stated above, -IDAE is not Greek but Latin).  However, this is not
important in reference to the code.  The concept that the family
group name can be formed by adding  -idae  to Nere- or to the stem
of the plural, or to whatever, is incorrect.  Basically, Article
29(a) of the Code states that family group name "is formed by adding
to the stem of the GENUS name [in this case the stem of the genitive
singular Nereidis, which is Nereid-] the latinized suffix -IDAE to
form a family name" . . This is explained fairly well in Table 2 of
Appendix D of the of the Code, which I really doubt is incorrect. 

Furthermore, I do not agree, that after adoption of the new code, 
there will be general agreement that Nereidae should be used.  I do
not plan to use it.  What is general agreement?  Who will decide?  I
am somewhat concerned that there will be a tendency toward
nomenclatural anarchy.

Should I say this is all I ever intend to say?

Tom Perkins
perkins_t at

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