16 March 2007

Naming names on the Internet

Four codes of nomenclature (for animals, plants, cultivated plants and bacteria) set the rules for the naming of new species, genera, etc. One rule common to all 4 codes is that a new name must be published. The International Code of Zoological Nomenclature allows for publication on CD instead of print. But none of the current codes allows publication of new names on the Internet alone. This will, however, be inevitable in the near future.

A commentary1 in this week’s Nature (15 March 2007) is about the digital future of taxonomy.

Knapp et al.1 give at least 3 reasons why digital publishing is better than traditional printing: (1) print-dependence for the naming of new organisms slows taxonomy down; (2) paper archiving is itself no guarantee of permanence; (3) the decreasing purchasing and storage capacities of libraries worldwide means that print media face an uncertain future.

I agree with them. We have been waiting since last summer for the publication of a new snail species form Turkey that we are describing. When it finally comes out, the journal will be distributed, hopefully, to many libraries. However, libraries, especially the kinds that receive the esoteric and obscure journals, will continue to exist as long as tax payers are willing to support them. But, who can guarantee that?

Digital publishing is here and, whether we like it or not, in the near future it should and will be permissible to publish new names solely on the Internet. Resistance is futile.

Visit ICZN's ZooBank that provides access to 1.5 million scientific names of animals.


1Sandra Knapp, Andrew Polaszek & Mark Watson. Nature 446:261-262 (15 March 2007). doi:10.1038/446261a

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The taxonomy in ZooBank seems to be a bit outdated: they still have Prosobranchia with Archaeo-/Meso-/Neogastropoda, all now considered para- or polyphyletic groups with the exception of the last.

Michael (hunting snails in Germany)