Published on January 20th, 2020 | by David Marshall


Episode 107: Nomenclature

Names can provide a large amount of information about the heritage of an individual, the purpose of a product or even the characteristics of an organism. With so much in a name, are there rules governing what you can and can’t name an animal? Can you name an animal after yourself or a celebrity? Can you sell the rights to a name? Which names are forbidden?

Every year 2,000 genera and some 15,000 species are added to scientific literature and providing the guidelines as to how these animals are named is the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN). We invited one of the ICZN’s commissioners, Dr Markus Bertling (Universität Münster), on to the show to discuss how the organisation functions and how its code applies to Palaeontology.

Markus Bertling is the curator for palaeontology at the Geomuseum der WWU ( Universität Münster, Germany) and Commissioner of the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature.
A type series: Each of these trace fossils, sized approximately 6 x 6 cm, have all been included in “Rhizocorallium Hohendahli” by Hosius (1893). He did not explicitly select a single specimen as the holotype, however, and this way, they all are syntypes. He figured the burrow at the lower left, so this might be selected as a lectotype by a subsequent author in a revision. (Any other specimen from this collection could be selected just as well.)
A type series: Only these two specimens form the type series for the trace fossil Tetraphyllum dubium Hosius & von der Marck, 1880 (who mistook them as plants). The specimen below was figured by them, so Bertling (2019) selected it as the lectotype.
Lectotype of the trace fossil Tetraphyllum dubium.
A holotype: This specimen is the holotype of the xenophyophore Glenodictyon haxagonum von der Marck, 1876. He did not explicitly designate it as such, but being the only specimen in his collection, it is the holotype by monotypy.
The “Scrotum humanum” story: Brookes (1763) has figured this end of a megalosaur thighbone; in the text he merely writes “Other stones have been found representing exactly the private parts of a man” – without further description or mention of the supposed ‘genus name’. This indicates that the words on the plate were not meant as a binomen in nomenclatural sense, and hence “Scrotum” is not a senior synonym of Megalosaurus.

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