Fredrik Pleijel pleijel at cimrs1.mnhn.fr
Mon Jun 26 15:46:57 EST 2000

Geoff Read wrote:
"If uninominals ever come into vogue this antipodean is wondering how to
make readable a paper in which Platynereis australis, Chloeia australis,
and  Pectinaria australis... [etc]
I haven't got the  papers in front of me but, as I recall, I was left with
the impression that the day-to-day utility of the system for ordinary
biologists was somewhat underexplained. "
Pity you didn't have the papers in front of you... You could have read:
"Confusion due to homonymies can be avoided by specification of authors
and/or more inclusive taxa (a unique identification number may also form
part of the name). There are several possibilities, and I have here opted
to write names at first mention with the least inclusive taxon first,
followed by more inclusive ones within brackets, and ending with author and
year of the taxon, such as "Flexuosus (Ophiodromus, Hesionidae) Sars,
1862". At subsequent mentions only a single name is used, e.g.,
"Flexuosus", or followed with an abbreviation of a more inclusive taxon,
e.g., "Flexuosus (O.)"; whatever is considered necessary for clarity."
(Pleijel 1999 Syst Biol 48:755-789).
So it's actually not a problem. If you're writing a study with a single
australis, then at first mention you give whatever clade addresses you
consider desirable (like today in titles), and after that you simply use
australis. If you have several australis in your study then you have to
specify a separating clade address. I don't see the big deal. The issue is
really that names for taxa shouldn't change all the time. Species names
unfortunately are connected to a generic name, so when we change opinion on
the affinity of a species it aso has to change name. I think it's a very
silly system. Cantino et al 1999 Syst Biol 48:790-807 provide a review of
alternative names for species.

As for Jims comment
"Geoff has stated what many of us have been thinking"
I find it fascinating that he takes on the role to speak for a lot of
people. But be reassured: I here speak only for myself.
Jim continues:
"Speaking as a person who deals with large ecological databases, a variety
of agencies who sponsor development of same, and often as one who has to
explain taxonomic changes to non-biologists, managers, regulators,
politicians, and even fellow biologists, I can tell you all that uninomials
wouldcreate total chaos."
I'm sorry Jim, but I tend to rely on people who come up with arguments
rather than authority or connections. Nor do I see the chaos.
"I will go even further and state that we taxonomists are often ridiculed
for making name changes; to switch to a system such as uninomial
nomenclature would not only further engender such ridicule, but would make
taxonomy the laughing stock of the biological world."
What an odd "argument" against a suggestion of a new name system which
strives to avoid name changes of species!
And the solution with unique numbers that was suggested has previously also
been suggested by the very people who argue for uninomials (e.g., Pleijel
1999, again).

Since I'm writing a book on polychaetes (together with Greg Rouse) I have
to quit now and spend a lot of time digging up correct combinations etc for
all taxa mentioned. Think about it: does it have to do with nature?

Fredrik Pleijel (at least today - I  may change name tomorrow)

Fredrik Pleijel
Biologie des Invertébrés marins, Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle
57, rue Cuvier
75231 Paris Cedex 05
tel: 33(0)1 40 79 31 12
fax: 33(0)1 40 79 31 09

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