Planet Earth

Does Darwinius Exist, Revisited: The Official Word Is...Not Yet.

The LoomBy Carl ZimmerMay 21, 2009 3:58 PM


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Yesterday I blogged about how Darwinius, the famous fossil primate that will change everything, may not actually have a published named yet. The trouble is that the official rules seem to indicate that a paper in an electronic journal is not enough. Paper is required. A spirited discussion among scientists blossomed in the comment thread, which has morphed into a conversation about Science 2.0. To get an official comment, I contacted the organization that oversees the naming of new species, the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature. This morning I got the following message from the Executive Secretary, Ellinor Michel.

1. The names are not nomenclaturally available from the electronic version of the publication. 2. The journal has contacted us for advice on how to ensure these names are nomenclaturally available, which we provided, saying that a separate print edition must be produced by a method that assures numerous identical and durable copies, and that those copies must be obtainable free of charge or for purchase. 3. If the publisher does what we recommended, then the names will be nomenclaturally available from the date of the paper publication. 4. This is a provisional arrangement as the ICZN is working on a proposed amendment to the Code allowing nomenclatural availability of names published in electronic-only journals. The proposed amendment is available here: and we encourage public input in this important discussion. 5. There are >1.8 million named species in the world, with approximately 16,000-25,000 new nomenclatural acts each year in zoology alone. Managing the scientific names indexing of this biodiversity requires rules promoting stability. The International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature, representing the taxonomic community and users of zoological names, works to uphold stability but also to develop the rules to accommodate technological development.

I've contacted PLOS and the authors and am waiting to hear where things stand now that the official word has been released. Update: Darwinius is now Darwinius.

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