Talk:Infraspecific name

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"Ternary name" is not in the ICBN[edit]

As far as I can discover, the term "ternary name" is not in the ICBN, at least not the Vienna Code which is now in force.

  • The terms used are defined in a glossary here. There's no entry for "ternary name".
  • Infraspecific taxa are dealt with in Articles 24-27, starting here. I can't find the term "ternary name" anywhere.
  • The correct term according to the code is "combination", as defined in Appendix VII: "combination. A name of a taxon below the rank of genus, consisting of the name of a genus combined with one or two epithets (Art. 6.7)."

The definition of "combination" is clearly limited to two- or three-part names. But what about 'descriptors' (my neutral term) with four or more parts? They aren't "combinations" but are they "names" under the Code? To me, there is some lack of clarity in the wording of the code at 24.1 Example 1:

"Ex. 1. Saxifraga aizoon subf. surculosa Engl. & Irmsch. This taxon may also be referred to as Saxifraga aizoon var. aizoon subvar. brevifolia f. multicaulis subf. surculosa Engl. & Irmsch.; in this way a full classification of the subforma within the species is given, not only its name."

This seems to have been interpreted in this article (and in Botanical name) as meaning that "Saxifraga aizoon subf. surculosa" is a name (and in particular a combination), whereas "Saxifraga aizoon var. aizoon subvar. brevifolia f. multicaulis subf. surculosa" is not a name, but a classification. But the code doesn't actually say this, and one sense of "not only its name" is that the full form gives both the name and the classification.

Whatever the terminology, it's clearly the case that a taxon can be referred to either by a three-part name or by a multi-part 'descriptor' which may or may not be a "name".

I don't think the article is correct in its description of the operation of the Code.

However, I don't have access to specialist works which interpret and explain the Code which may clarify this matter. Peter coxhead (talk) 22:15, 30 May 2011 (UTC)

I'd also favour deleting this page. In my experience nobody says "ternary name", they do say "trinomial". A multi-part descriptor of the sort you describe is often referred to as "not a name but a "classification" ". Article 24.1 is the only thing that anyone has directed me to about this matter, which must be one of the most difficult in nomenclature. Nadiatalent (talk)
I don't support deleting the page unless the material exists elsewhere (this is the kind of thing which would just get re-created, probably more poorly than what we have). As for the title of the page, a google scholar search for "ternary name" does get a certain number of hits from places like Taxon, but since Taxon isn't online, I can't readily look at the context. I'd have no objection to renaming ternary name to infraspecific taxon (botany) or infraspecific taxon (although the latter might be a little too tricky in terms of distinguishing ICBN from ICZN). As for whether a name like Saxifraga aizoon var. aizoon subvar. brevifolia f. multicaulis subf. surculosa should be called a "name" or a "classification", I'd just re-word our text to be a bit less specific. It seems more useful to just mention this kind of name and give a rough idea of how it works, than to get into the taxonomic fine points. Kingdon (talk) 00:48, 31 May 2011 (UTC)
A couple of points:
  1. A ternary name/trinomial/whatever you want to call it, is a name, not merely a combination. See article 24.1: "The name of an infraspecific taxon is a combination of the name of a species and an infraspecific epithet. A connecting term is used to denote the rank."
  2. A "ternary name"/"trinomial"/whatever you want to call it, is not an infraspecific taxon. It is a type of name given to an infraspecific taxon. I'm opposed to any page move that conflates taxonomy with nomenclature in this way.
Hesperian 01:30, 31 May 2011 (UTC)
There seem to be two issues:
  • Re-writing the content of the page so that it has inline references to the Code and is more accurate as to what the the Code says (I agree that the article should avoid over-fine taxonomic points).
  • Re-naming or merging the page. I agree with Hesperian that the title of the page must be about names, not taxa, so it could be "Infraspecific taxon name (botany)", but although accurate, this seems a horrible title to me. Another possibility is to merge the content into Botanical_name#More_than_two_parts which already covers this in less detail. I favour the latter: keep all the material about botanical names together where it is more easily updated if/when the Code changes, etc. Views? Peter coxhead (talk) 10:10, 31 May 2011 (UTC)

For years, I had this wrong, and was corrected a few years ago by Jin Reveal on the Taxacom mailing list. Saxifraga aizoon var. aizoon and Saxifraga aizoon subf. surculosa are indeed names. Saxifraga aizoon var. aizoon subvar. brevifolia f. multicaulis subf. surculosa is a classification. I think a good article title might be Infraspecific name (botany); it's succinct and accurate. "Combination" is a superset, since it also includes binomials, and in everyday speech (!) by botanical nomenclaturists, it is most often used in reference to the act of combination, placing an epithet with a genus, hence "new combination". --Curtis Clark (talk) 13:47, 31 May 2011 (UTC)

Neat suggestion for the page name. Nadiatalent (talk) 20:25, 31 May 2011 (UTC)
Agree, but I'm not sure whether most botanists would identify the infraspecific name of Saxifraga aizoon subf. surculosa to be "Saxifraga aizoon subf. surculosa" or "surculosa". Hesperian 23:36, 31 May 2011 (UTC)
If they wouldn't, they would be committing a grave error! No epithet is a name, neither a specific epithet nor an infraspecific epithet. Peter coxhead (talk) 21:37, 1 June 2011 (UTC)

Move and re-write[edit]

I have been WP:BOLD and moved this page to "Infraspecific name (botany)" with "Infraspecific name" as a redirect; there seems to be strong support from those who understand the Code that "Ternary name" is not appropriate. I've then re-written the article to include inline references to the ICBN.

  • Checks on all of the material are desirable!
  • I had a particular problem explaining the material in the subsection Infraspecific_name_(botany)#Legitimate_infraspecific_names. I'm confident that I understand what the Code means, but it's not easy to explain. So I'd welcome comments/revisions/whatever. I've somewhat glossed over the difference between different kinds of type, but I think this is acceptable for a Wikipedia article; if you don't agree, please say so.
  • I can't find a source in the Code for the content of Infraspecific_name_(botany)#Specifying_authors, which was re-written from the unreferenced original. Is it correct? If so, what is the source?

I'm less sure now that this should be merged into Botanical nomenclature, but this is still an option. Peter coxhead (talk) 21:37, 1 June 2011 (UTC)

Cultivar, etc.[edit]

Is a Cultivar considered a form of Infraspecific name? (semantically it should be: "within species")? Also, it seems "ifraspecific" is sometimes used in a more general sense than described here; i.e.: not being exclusive to botany. For instance, while using a taxonomic browser, I came across a species of mammal; under the species were a number of names under 'subspecies' and a name under 'infraspecific', and I wondered what the distinction was. ~Eric F (talk) 16:35, 22 October 2012 (UTC)
- Note: I added a new 'See also' section and added 'Cultivar' to it. ~E (talk) 16:45, 22 October 2012 (UTC)

No. Cultivar is not considered a taxonomic rank. Same with Plant variety (law) (colloquially "variety") which is different and should not be confused with the taxonomic rank Variety (botany) (colloquially also "variety", formally "varietas"). I have no objections to adding it as a See also link though.-- OBSIDIANSOUL 18:47, 22 October 2012 (UTC)
Also in terms of zoology, unlike botany, only the subspecies rank is recognized and regulated by the ICZN. And yes, the term is not exclusive to botany hence the parentheses in the title. The prefix infra- simply means "below" (not "within", which is intra-), such "infraspecific" simply means any rank/group below the species level. It's also used in terms like "infrageneric" (below genus level), "infrafamilial" (below family level), or "infraordinal" (below order level), etc. In zoology the term is usually "infrasubspecific", as the [informal] groups it refers to are those below the formally recognized subspecies level. Things like breeds and races.-- OBSIDIANSOUL 19:18, 22 October 2012 (UTC)
Hm. I see your point now. Perhaps the page can be moved to Infraspecific rank (botany) instead? We may need to create a separate (perhaps a disambiguation) page for infraspecific name/infraspecific rank though.-- OBSIDIANSOUL 19:23, 22 October 2012 (UTC)
I don't know how it should be handled, but there should be some sort of disambiguation. Perhaps at least add: For other uses... Infraspecific (disambiguation) ... which somehow I just managed to automagically create; and should probably be "speedily deleted"? ~Eric F (talk) 21:02, 22 October 2012 (UTC)
It was an old incorrect redirect created last January which led to the page on Intraspecific, which is a very different concept. I have nominated it for deletion (and it has been deleted by User:RHaworth already). It doesn't stop us from creating a new page though, but I'm unsure as to how to proceed. Should we structure it as a disambiguation page or a broad-concept article? And I'm not sure I know enough to be writing such a page. I've invited other editors from the relevant wikiprojects to comment.-- OBSIDIANSOUL 22:57, 22 October 2012 (UTC)
Since I'm the least informed on this issue, I'll let you folks decide what, if anything, should be done. Perhaps I'm the only one who was confused. ~E (talk) 00:06, 23 October 2012 (UTC)

This article is about the names of infraspecific taxa as regulated by the ICN; this is what the title "Infraspecific name (botany)" is supposed to convey. The names of cultivars are regulated by a different Code, the ICNCP. The article doesn't make this sufficiently clear. I'll try to clarify it. Peter coxhead (talk) 09:58, 23 October 2012 (UTC)

Some changes now made; a bit more work is needed (e.g. wikilinks, refs). Peter coxhead (talk) 11:45, 23 October 2012 (UTC)
Thanks for clarifying, ~Eric F (talk) 06:08, 27 October 2012 (UTC)


subspecies - recommended abbreviation: subsp. (but "ssp." is also in use)

There is no mention of "ssp" in Article 26, but the above wording implies that it tolerates (if not sanctions) the use of this short form.

Furthermore “ssp” is not a true abbreviation so (like Mr, Mrs etc) doesn't have a full stop. BioImages2000 (talk) 11:16, 3 January 2014 (UTC)

Firstly, the previous wording didn't imply to me that "ssp." rather than "subsp." was approved by the ICN, but the change made does make it clear that it isn't. Secondly, the rationale re a full stop is wrong. In those varieties of English which have dropped terminal full stops in contractions like "Mr" and "Mrs", the rationale is that the stop shows missing letters at the end. Thus "Prof." = "Professor" has a stop, "Dr" = "Doctor" doesn't. Since "ssp." is short for "subspecies" and has letters missing at the end (as well as internally) it has a full stop. See, e.g., [1]: "subspecies (abbreviated to subsp. or occasionally ssp. but this can easily be confused with spp., the abbreviation for species plural, so is not recommended)". Peter coxhead (talk) 22:50, 3 January 2014 (UTC)