Topic 3: GUIDs for Taxon Names and Taxon Concepts

Richard Pyle deepreef at BISHOPMUSEUM.ORG
Thu Nov 3 13:09:42 CET 2005

Hi Yde,

Great post!

I have a couple of comments/questions:

> The taxon concept is considered the use of a species concept in
> literature, so that equals your definition, however, the issue
> of taxon concepts is very much a botanic subject.

I'm not sure I understand the difference between a "species concept" and a
"taxon concept", in your quote above.

If I understand your prior remark: "but in general we understand as species
concept the species name plus the associated subjective synonyms" -- I think
this is the same as the "taxon concept", but taken to a resolution involving
only name-bearing type specimens.  I do not see any difference between a
zoologist's "species concept" and a botanist's "taxon concept" -- they are
all taxon concepts.  In all cases, a "concept" is a set of multiple
individual organisms, representing a subjective scope of biodiversity to
which a scientific name is applied.  How that scope is communicated (e.g.,
via synonym names as surrogates of their respective name-bearing types; or
by a broader spectrum of non-type specimen material; or by character
descriptions; or whatever) is necessarily variable, but they are just
different ways of defining the boundaries of a circumsctiption of organisms.
Same for botany and zoology.  Also, the connection with literature is not so
much (in my mind) a definitive attribute of a taxon concept. Rather, it is
the easiest way to *refer* to an implied taxon concept.  So the literature
is not part of the concept -- just part of a convenient way of representing
a concept in short-hand notation (and also representing a cross-reference to
documentation that will in most cases further describe the boundaries of the

> - However, an unique species name id can be easily artificially
> created by merging both generic and epithet id's (a trick we also
> use for Species2000).

By this, do you mean that combinations *other* than the original combination
are stored in Fauna Europaea?  If so, then are they simply indicated as a
direct link between two naked names; or is the link qualified in some way
with a "source" (e.g., some publication or expert's assertion that the genus
name and species epithet are linked)?

> For practical reasons I think the starting point for assigning
> GUIDs should be basically nomenclatural.

I completely agree -- but again, what gets a "Name" GUID? (as opposed to a
"usage" GUID or a "concept" GUID)  Only basionyms? (I hope!)  Or also
different combinations? (I hope not!) Or also spelling variants? (I *really*
hope not!!)  There is also a problem of how to deal with autonyms
(=nominotypical names in zoology).  One GUID, or two? Logically, only one --
but most people don't do it that way.

These are some of the most fundamental questions that need to be addressed
before any universal GUID system can be implemented.

> Aside we should distinguish basionyms for unequivocal linking
> to type specimens and genetic resources.

I completely agree!


Richard L. Pyle, PhD
Database Coordinator for Natural Sciences
  and Associate Zoologist in Ichthyology
Department of Natural Sciences, Bishop Museum
1525 Bernice St., Honolulu, HI 96817
Ph: (808)848-4115, Fax: (808)847-8252
email: deepreef at

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