In botanical nomenclature the phrase nomen dubium has no status, although it is informally used for names whose application has become confusing. In this regard however, its synonym nomen ambiguum is of more frequent use. In botany, such names may be proposed for rejection.
In case of a nomen dubium it may be impossible to determine whether a specimen belongs to that group or not. This may happen if the original type series (i. e. holotype, isotypes, syntypes, and paratypes) is lost or destroyed. The zoological and botanical codes allow for a new type specimen, or neotype, to be chosen in this case.
A name may also be considered a nomen dubium if its name-bearing type is fragmentary or lacking important diagnostic features (this is often the case for species known only as fossils). To preserve stability of names, the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature allows a new type specimen, or neotype, to be chosen for a nomen dubium in this case.
75.5. Replacement of unidentifiable name-bearing type by a neotype. When an author considers that the taxonomic identity of a nominal species-group taxon cannot be determined from its existing name-bearing type (i.e. its name is a nomen dubium), and stability or universality are threatened thereby, the author may request the Commission to set aside under its plenary power [Art. 81] the existing name-bearing type and designate a neotype.
For example, the crocodile-like archosaurian reptile Parasuchus hislopi Lydekker, 1885 was described based on a premaxillary rostrum (part of the snout), but this is no longer sufficient to distinguish Parasuchus from its close relatives. This made the name Parasuchus hislopi a nomen dubium. Texan paleontologist Sankar Chatterjee proposed that a new type specimen, a complete skeleton, be designated. The International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature considered the case and agreed in 2003 to replace the original type specimen with the proposed neotype.
A current example is the Omani owl (Strix omanensis). It was formally described in the journal Dutch Birding in 2013. But due to the fact that no type specimen was collected, Strix omanensis should be considered as nomen dubium until a neotype is designated.
- species inquirenda, a species of doubtful identity requiring further investigation
- nomen nudum, a name proposed with no description (or illustration)
- nomen oblitum, a forgotten name