Nomen novum

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In biological nomenclature, a nomen novum (Latin for "new name"), new replacement name (or replacement name, new substitute name, substitute name[1]) is a technical term. It indicates a scientific name that is created specifically to replace another scientific name, but only when this other name cannot be used for technical, nomenclatural reasons (for example because it is a homonym: it is spelled the same as an existing, older name); it does not apply when a name is changed for taxonomic reasons (representing a change in scientific insight). It is frequently abbreviated, e.g. nomen nov., nom. nov..


In zoology establishing a new replacement name is a nomenclatural act and it must be expressly proposed to substitute a previously established and available name.

Often, the older name cannot be used because another animal was described earlier with exactly the same name. For example, Lindholm discovered in 1913[2] that a generic name Jelskia established by Bourguignat in 1877 for a European freshwater snail could not be used because another author Taczanowski had proposed the same name in 1871 for a spider. So Lindholm proposed a new replacement name Borysthenia. This is an objective synonym of Jelskia Bourguignat, 1877, because he has the same type species, and is used today as Borysthenia.

Also for names of species new replacement names are often necessary. New replacement names have been proposed since more than 100 years ago. In 1859 Bourguignat[3] saw that the name Bulimus cinereus Mortillet, 1851 for an Italian snail could not be used because Reeve had proposed exactly the same name in 1848 for a completely different Bolivian snail. Since it was understood even then that the older name always has priority, Bourguignat proposed a new replacement name Bulimus psarolenus, and also added a note why this was necessary. The Italian snail is known until today under the name Solatopupa psarolena (Bourguignat, 1859).

A new replacement name must obey certain rules, not all of these are well known.

Not every author who proposes a name for a species that already has another name, establishes a new replacement name. An author who writes "The name of the insect species with the green wings shall be named X, this is the one that the other author has named Y", does not establish a new replacement name (but a regular new name).

The International Code of Zoological Nomenclature prescribes that for a new replacement name, an expressed statement must be given by the author,[4] which means an explicit statement concerning the process of replacing the previous name. It is not necessary to employ the term nomen novum, but something must be expressed concerning the act of substituting a name. Implicit evidence ("everybody knows why the author used that new name") is not allowed at this occasion. Many zoologists do not know that this expressed statement is necessary, and therefore a variety of names are regarded as having been established as new replacement names (often including names that were mentioned without any description, which is fundamentally contrary to the rules).

The author who proposes a new replacement name must state exactly which name shall be replaced. It is not possible to mention three available synonyms at once, to be replaced. Usually the author explains why the new replacement name is needed.

Sometimes we read "the species cannot keep this old name P. brasiliensis, because it does not live in Brazil, so I propose a new name P. angolana". Even though this would not justify a new replacement name under the Code's rules, the author believed that a new name was necessary and gave an expressed statement concerning the act of replacing. So the name P. angolana was made available at this occasion, and is an objective synonym of P. brasiliensis.

A new replacement name can only be used for a taxon if the name that it replaces cannot be used, as in the example above with the snail and the spider, or in the other example with the Italian and the Bolivian snail. The animal from Angola must keep its name brasiliensis, because this is the older name.

New replacement names do not occur very frequently, but they are not extremely rare. About 1% of the currently used zoological names might be new replacement names. There are no exact statistics covering all animal groups. In 2200 names of species and 350 names of genera in European non-marine molluscs, which might be a representative group of animals, 0.7% of the specific and 3.4% of the generic names were correctly established as new replacement names (and a further 0.7% of the specific and 1.7% of the generic names have incorrectly been regarded as new replacement names by some authors).

Algae, Fungi and Plants[edit]

Also in botany and mycology a nomen novum may be created when an earlier description is found to be illegitimate; that is then the replacement name, and the old name becomes a replaced synonym. Also a newer combination may be based on an older name (the basionym), in which case the basionym author(s) will be included in parentheses in the author citation; then it may be discovered that the basionym is illegitimate and it will become a replaced synonym. The original name authors of a replaced synonym are not included in the author citation. The main reason that a name becomes illegitimate is that an earlier valid use of the same name (a homonym) is brought to light.

For instance the fungus Marasmius distantifolius was defined by Y.S. Tan and Desjardin in 2009 and then it was found that this name had been used with a different meaning by William Alphonso Murrill in 1915. After that a new name for Tan and Desjardin's species, M. asiaticus was created by Mešić and Tkalčec. The replaced synonym is M. distantifolius Y.S. Tan & Desjardin, and the current name with author citation is Marasmius asiaticus Mešić & Tkalčec.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ ICZN Code (Glossary)
  2. ^ Page 167 in Lindholm, W. A. 1913. Miszellen zur Malakozoologie des Russischen Reiches. I-XIII. - Ezhegodnik. Zoologicheskago Muzeja Imperatorskoi Akademii Nauk [Annuaire du Musée Zoologique de l'Académie Impériale des Sciences de St.-Pétersbourg] 18 (1): 151-167.
  3. ^ Page 52 in Bourguignat, J. R. 1859. Aménités malacologiques. - Revue et Magasin de Zoologie pure et appliquée (2) 11: 51-59, Pl. 15. Paris.[1]
  4. ^ ICZN Code 4th edition (2000), Art. 67.8, 72.7
  5. ^ "Marasmius asiaticus page". Species Fungorum. Royal Botanic Gardens Kew. Retrieved 2018-12-10.

External links[edit]