Linnean Name

Colin Cracknell colinc at cix.compulink.co.uk
Wed Dec 21 15:09:35 EST 1994


I'm trying to find a definition of Linnean Name sufficently tight to form 
part of a computer program specification.

I want to be able to recognise and parse names like "Arthropoda" or 
"Ischnura elegans f. violacea".

Below is what I've come up with so far, in a kind of simplified 
Bachus-Naur (sp?) notation. There are probably some mistakes, and 
certainly some unanswered questions.
(This definition excludes abbreviated taxon names, like the "E." in E. 
coli.)

 ==================================================

Linnean Name == HighRankingTaxon [& " " & SubTaxon]

Taxon = HighRankingTaxon |
        LowRankingTaxon

HighRankingTaxon == CapitalLetter [& LowerCaseString]

SubTaxon == ElaborateTaxon [& " " & SubTaxon]

ElaborateTaxon == LowRankingTaxon |
                  "(" & Taxon & ")" |
                  RankIndicator & " " & LowRankingTaxon 

RankIndicator == "f." |
                 "form" [& "a"] |
                 "var." |
                 "ssp." |
                 "race" |
                 <lots of others - what are they?>

LowRankingTaxon == [NumericString & "-" & ] [LowercaseString & "-" & ] 
LowerCaseString

 ==================================================

Any taxon with a rank of species or below is a LowRankingTaxon, and thus 
written all in lower case.
Any taxon with a rank of genus or above is a HighRankingTaxon, written 
with an initial upper case letter.
All HighRankingTaxa have unique names.

 ==================================================

 Questions:
 ----------
1) Can you understand this?
2) Is it correct?
3) What other rank indicators are used?
4) Under what circumstances is a taxon put in parentheses?
5) Should a subgenus, or any other taxon between genus & species, be 
written with a capital or lowercase initial?
6) Can any HighRankingTaxon start with a non-alpha character?
7) Do any taxa contain characters other than numbers, "-" & letters?
8) Have I used the word "taxon" correctly, to refer to the *name* of an 
organism (or group), rather than the organism itself? If not, could you 
suggest better terminology?

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colinc at cix.compulink.co.uk | "Specialisation is for insects" [RAH]
                           | "I specialise in insects" [ColinC]
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