New taxa in abstracts

Fredrik Pleijel f.pleijel at
Tue Aug 12 06:24:40 EST 1997

A large amount of a taxonomist's work involves trying to establish what
earlier authors have intended with a taxon name. This may be
understandable when examining 18th, 19th and early 20th century
descriptions; it is at least in part an effect of the fact that these
earlier authors did not have to differentiate their new taxa from as many
previous ones as we have today. These descriptions simply do not provide
information on many characters. Although we may have quite different
expectations of modern descriptions, a quick browse of the volumes from
the proceedings of International Polychaete Conferences unfortunately
provides the following list of new taxa and combinations which were
briefly introduced solely in abstracts and without accompanying paper:

3rd meeting in California: Lycastopsis riojai, new species; Cirratulus
gayheadius, new combination; Protocirrinereis chrysoderma, new combination,
Protocirrinereis ?antarctica, new combination.

4th meeting in France
Pseudocirratulida, new order, Pseudocirratulidae, new family.

5th meeting in China
Flotidae, new family; Polyophthalmus qingdaoensis, new species;
Micronerilla brevis, new species; Paraleiochrides, new genus.

Eupraxillella, Diopatra mexicana, Mooreonuphis pumae and Pista malmgreni
were also named in abstracts in those publications but constitute nomina
nuda since they were not accompanied by any descriptions.

The abstract descriptions fulfill the requirements of the Code for
introduction of new taxa (except the new order, a rank not governed by
these rules) in including latinized name together with some (no matter
how brief) descriptive part. In our view, however, they do not fulfill the
requirements of biologists. We minimally expect a description and a
diagnosis; the former detailing characteristics which the experienced
taxonomist considers of importance and worthy of communication, the
latter features which permit us to recognize this taxon as different from
all previously named ones. Additionally, the new taxon should be followed
by comparisons of characters to those of closely related groups plus an
evaluation of its relationships. Very little of all of this information
can or should be provided in an abstract. These names also tend to
introduce nomenclatural problems when the full paper is later published
with statements that the taxa are newly erected; in that moment the
authors actually create both junior homonyms and junior synonyms of the
taxa which were earlier described in the abstract.

The introduction of new combinations also represents nomenclatural acts,
and should be treated with similar caution as new taxa. New synonomies, in
contrast, represent individual taxonomist's judgement on group affinities,
and as such represent separate acts without nomenclatural bearing. There
may be other reasons for not introducing them in abstract.

We therefore urge authors and editors to avoid future publication of new
taxa and new combinations in abstracts whenever these are published without
accompanying paper. These abstracts may be presented in similar form as
before, except that the formal introduction of new names should await the
complete publication.

Thanks from Fredrik Pleijel & Kristian Fauchald

Fredrik Pleijel
Executive editor for Zoologica Scripta
Current address (1st Sept 96 - 1 Oct 97):
Dep Inv Zool
National Museum of Natural History
MRC 163
Smithsonian Institution
Washington DC 205 60 US
tel 202 357 4594
fax 202 357 3043
e-mail f.pleijel at

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