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Concept: Nomenclature


Taxonomists have been tasked with cataloguing and quantifying the Earth’s biodiversity. Their progress is measured in code-compliant species descriptions that include text, images, type material and molecular sequences. It is from this material that other researchers are to identify individuals of the same species in future observations. It has been estimated that 13% to 22% (depending on taxonomic group) of described species have only ever been observed once. Species that have only been observed at the time and place of their original description are referred to as oncers. Oncers are important to our current understanding of biodiversity. They may be validly described species that are members of a rare biosphere, or they may indicate endemism, or that these species are limited to very constrained niches. Alternatively, they may reflect that taxonomic practices are too poor to allow the organism to be re-identified or that the descriptions are unknown to other researchers. If the latter are true, our current tally of species will not be an accurate indication of what we know. In order to investigate this phenomenon and its potential causes, we examined the microbial eukaryote genus Gymnodinium. This genus contains 268 extant species, 103 (38%) of which have not been observed since their original description. We report traits of the original descriptions and interpret them in respect to the status of the species. We conclude that the majority of oncers were poorly described and their identity is ambiguous. As a result, we argue that the genus Gymnodinium contains only 234 identifiable species. Species that have been observed multiple times tend to have longer descriptions, written in English. The styles of individual authors have a major effect, with a few authors describing a disproportionate number of oncers. The information about the taxonomy of Gymnodinium that is available via the internet is incomplete, and reliance on it will not give access to all necessary knowledge. Six new names are presented - Gymnodinium campbelli for the homonymous name Gymnodinium translucens Campbell 1973, Gymnodinium antarcticum for the homonymous name Gymnodinium frigidum Balech 1965, Gymnodinium manchuriensis for the homonymous name Gymnodinium autumnale Skvortzov 1968, Gymnodinium christenum for the homonymous name Gymnodinium irregulare Christen 1959, Gymnodinium conkufferi for the homonymous name Gymnodinium irregulare Conrad & Kufferath 1954 and Gymnodinium chinensis for the homonymous name Gymnodinium frigidum Skvortzov 1968.

Concepts: Biodiversity, Organism, Species, Taxonomy, Genus, Microorganism, International Code of Zoological Nomenclature, Nomenclature


Creation and use of the scientific names of animals are ruled by the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature. Until recently, publication of new names in a work produced with ink on paper was required for their availability. A long awaited amendment to the Code issued in September 2012 by the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature now allows publication of new names in online-only works, provided that the latter are registered with ZooBank, the Official Register of Animal Names. With this amendment, the rules of zoological nomenclature have been aligned with the opportunities (and needs) of our digital era. However, possible causes for nomenclatural instability remain. These could be completely removed if the Code-compliant publication of new names will be identified with their online registration, under suitable technological and formal (legal) conditions. Future developments of the ZooBank may provide the tool required to make this definitive leap ahead in zoological nomenclature.

Concepts: Animal, Taxonomy, Noun, Binomial nomenclature, Name, International Code of Zoological Nomenclature, Nomenclature, International Code of Botanical Nomenclature


Despite knowing a familiar individual (such as a daughter) well, anecdotal evidence suggests that naming errors can occur among very familiar individuals. Here, we investigate the conditions surrounding these types of errors, or misnamings, in which a person (the misnamer) incorrectly calls a familiar individual (the misnamed) by someone else’s name (the named). Across 5 studies including over 1,700 participants, we investigated the prevalence of the phenomenon of misnaming, identified factors underlying why it may occur, and tested potential mechanisms. We included undergraduates and MTurk workers and asked questions of both the misnamed and the misnamer. We find that familiar individuals are often misnamed with the name of another member of the same semantic category; family members are misnamed with another family member’s name and friends are misnamed with another friend’s name. Phonetic similarity between names also leads to misnamings; however, the size of this effect was smaller than that of the semantic category effect. Overall, the misnaming of familiar individuals is driven by the relationship between the misnamer, misnamed, and named; phonetic similarity between the incorrect name used by the misnamer and the correct name also plays a role in misnaming.

Concepts: Person, Individual, Member of Parliament, Evidence, Name, Nomenclature, Names, .jobs


Recent research reported the surprising finding that even 6-mo-olds understand common nouns [Bergelson E, Swingley D (2012) Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 109:3253-3258]. However, is their early lexicon structured and acquired like older learners? We test 6-mo-olds for a hallmark of the mature lexicon: cross-word relations. We also examine whether properties of the home environment that have been linked with lexical knowledge in older children are detectable in the initial stage of comprehension. We use a new dataset, which includes in-lab comprehension and home measures from the same infants. We find evidence for cross-word structure: On seeing two images of common nouns, infants looked significantly more at named target images when the competitor images were semantically unrelated (e.g., milk and foot) than when they were related (e.g., milk and juice), just as older learners do. We further find initial evidence for home-lab links: common noun “copresence” (i.e., whether words' referents were present and attended to in home recordings) correlated with in-lab comprehension. These findings suggest that, even in neophyte word learners, cross-word relations are formed early and the home learning environment measurably helps shape the lexicon from the outset.

Concepts: Understanding, Structure, Noun, Lexeme, Reference, Name, Nomenclature, Lexicon


This listing of names of prokaryotes published in a previous issue of the IJSEM is provided as a service to bacteriology to assist in the recognition of new names and new combinations. This procedure was proposed by the Judicial Commission [Minute 11(ii), Int J Syst Bacteriol 41 (1991), p. 185]. The names given herein are listed according to the Rules of priority (i.e. page number and order of valid publication of names in the original articles).

Concepts: Bacteria, Microbiology, According to Jim, Publishing, Nomenclature, Personal name


An improved and expanded nomenclature for genetic sequences is introduced that corresponds with a ranking of the reliability of the taxonomic identification of the source specimens. This nomenclature is an advancement of the “Genetypes” naming system, which some have been reluctant to adopt because of the use of the “type” suffix in the terminology. In the new nomenclature, genetic sequences are labeled “genseq,” followed by a reliability ranking (e.g., 1 if the sequence is from a primary type), followed by the name of the genes from which the sequences were derived (e.g., genseq-1 16S, COI). The numbered suffix provides an indication of the likely reliability of taxonomic identification of the voucher. Included in this ranking system, in descending order of taxonomic reliability, are the following: sequences from primary types - “genseq-1,” secondary types - “genseq-2,” collection-vouchered topotypes - “genseq-3,” collection-vouchered non-types - “genseq-4,” and non-types that lack specimen vouchers but have photo vouchers - “genseq-5.” To demonstrate use of the new nomenclature, we review recently published new-species descriptions in the ichthyological literature that include DNA data and apply the GenSeq nomenclature to sequences referenced in those publications. We encourage authors to adopt the GenSeq nomenclature (note capital “G” and “S” when referring to the nomenclatural program) to provide a searchable tag (e.g., “genseq”; note lowercase “g” and “s” when referring to sequences) for genetic sequences from types and other vouchered specimens. Use of the new nomenclature and ranking system will improve integration of molecular phylogenetics and biological taxonomy and enhance the ability of researchers to assess the reliability of sequence data. We further encourage authors to update sequence information on databases such as GenBank whenever nomenclatural changes are made.

Concepts: DNA, Genetics, Biology, Taxonomy, Noun, Biological classification, Name, Nomenclature


The HUGO Gene Nomenclature Committee situated at the European Bioinformatics Institute assigns unique symbols and names to human genes. Since 2011, the data within our database has expanded largely owing to an increase in naming pseudogenes and non-coding RNA genes, and we now have >33 500 approved symbols. Our gene families and groups have also increased to nearly 500, with ∼45% of our gene entries associated to at least one family or group. We have also redesigned the HUGO Gene Nomenclature Committee website creating a constant look and feel across the site and improving usability and readability for our users. The site provides a public access portal to our database with no restrictions imposed on access or the use of the data. Within this article, we review our online resources and data with particular emphasis on the updates to our website.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Bioinformatics, RNA, Non-coding RNA, HUGO Gene Nomenclature Committee, Nomenclature, Gene nomenclature


At the Nomenclature Section of the XVIII International Botanical Congress in Melbourne, Australia (IBC), the botanical community voted to allow electronic publication of nomenclatural acts for algae, fungi and plants, and to abolish the rule requiring Latin descriptions or diagnoses for new taxa. Since the 1st January 2012, botanists have been able to publish new names in electronic journals and may use Latin or English as the language of description or diagnosis.

Concepts: Photosynthesis, Species, Plant, Fungus, Noun, Nomenclature, PhyloCode, International Code of Botanical Nomenclature


Both classical taxonomy and DNA barcoding are engaged in the task of digitizing the living world. Much of the taxonomic literature remains undigitized. The rise of open access publishing this century and the freeing of older literature from the shackles of copyright have greatly increased the online availability of taxonomic descriptions, but much of the literature of the mid- to late-twentieth century remains offline (‘dark texts’). DNA barcoding is generating a wealth of computable data that in many ways are much easier to work with than classical taxonomic descriptions, but many of the sequences are not identified to species level. These ‘dark taxa’ hamper the classical method of integrating biodiversity data, using shared taxonomic names. Voucher specimens are a potential common currency of both the taxonomic literature and sequence databases, and could be used to help link names, literature and sequences. An obstacle to this approach is the lack of stable, resolvable specimen identifiers. The paper concludes with an appeal for a global ‘digital dashboard’ to assess the extent to which biodiversity data are available online.This article is part of the themed issue ‘From DNA barcodes to biomes’.

Concepts: Species, Taxonomy, Academic publishing, DNA barcoding, Identification, Taxonomic rank, Alpha taxonomy, Nomenclature


Vertebral laminae are bony ridges or sheets that connect important morphological landmarks on the vertebrae, like diapophyses or zygapophyses. They usually exhibit some serial variation throughout the column. A consistent terminology facilitates the morphological description of this variation, and the recognition of patterns that could be taxonomically significant and could serve as phylogenetic characters. Such a terminology was designed for saurischian dinosaurs, and has also been applied to other members of Archosauriformes. Herein, this terminology is applied for the first time to lizards (Squamata). Probably due to their generally smaller size compared to saurischian dinosaurs, lizards have less developed vertebral laminae. Some laminae could not be recognized in this group and others require new names to account for differences in basic vertebral morphology. For instance, the fusion of diapophysis and parapophysis in lacertids into a structure called synapophysis necessitates the creation of the new term synapophyseal laminae for both diapophyseal and parapophyseal laminae. An assessment of occurrence and serial variation in a number of lacertid species shows that some laminae develop throughout ontogeny or only occur in large-sized species, whereas the distribution of other laminae might prove to be taxonomically significant in future.

Concepts: Squamata, Vertebrate, Snake, Lizard, Saurischia, Nomenclature, Tuatara, Lacertidae