Confronting taxonomic vandalism in biology: conscientious community self-organization can preserve nomenclatural stability
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AbstractSelf-published taxon descriptions, bereft of a basis of evidence, are a long-standing problem in taxonomy. The problem derives in part from the Principle of Priority in the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature, which forces the use of the oldest available nomen irrespective of scientific merit. This provides a route to ‘immortality’ for unscrupulous individuals through the mass-naming of taxa without scientific basis, a phenomenon referred to as taxonomic vandalism. Following a flood of unscientific taxon namings, in 2013 a group of concerned herpetologists organized a widely supported, community-based campaign to treat these nomina as lying outside the permanent scientific record, and to ignore and overwrite them as appropriate. Here, we review the impact of these proposals over the past 8 years. We identified 59 instances of unscientific names being set aside and overwritten with science-based names (here termed aspidonyms), and 1087 uses of these aspidonyms, compared to one instance of preference for the overwritten names. This shows that when there is widespread consultation and agreement across affected research communities, setting aside certain provisions of the Code can constitute an effective last resort defence against taxonomic vandalism and enhance the universality and stability of the scientific nomenclature.
CitationWüster, W., Thomson, S. A., O’Shea, M. & Kaiser, H. (2021) Confronting taxonomic vandalism in biology: conscientious community self-organization can preserve nomenclatural stability, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 133 (3), Pages 645–670, https://doi.org/10.1093/biolinnean/blab009
PublisherOxford University Press
JournalBiological Journal of the Linnean Society
Description© 2021 The Authors. Published by Oxford University Press. This is an open access article available under a Creative Commons licence. The published version can be accessed at the following link on the publisher’s website: https://doi.org/10.1093/biolinnean/blab009
Except where otherwise noted, this item's license is described as http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/