UCR Entomologist Attends Meeting of International Authority Governing Animal Names

Douglas Yanega is one of 26 commissioners of the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature

Photo shows the commissioners who attended the most recent meeting of the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature that was held Nov. 17-20 in Singapore. UC Riverside’s Douglas Yanega is seen in the top row, fourth from the right. Photo credit: National University of Singapore.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – The International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN) is tasked with establishing the rules and procedures for applying scientific names to all animals, living and extinct.  It manages millions of zoological names and oversees some 16,000 new species named every year.

In existence since 1895, the ICZN currently comprises 26 senior biologists from 19 countries around the world, and arbitrates in cases of ambiguity and dispute to ensure that zoological scientific names are stable and can be used internationally by scientists and the public.

Photo shows Douglas Yanega.

Douglas Yanega is a senior museum scientist at UC Riverside.Photo credit: I. Pittalwala.

Douglas Yanega, senior museum scientist in the Department of Entomology at the University of California, Riverside and an ICZN Commissioner, attended the most recent meeting of the commission, held Nov. 17-20 in Singapore, whose broad agenda was how the ICZN could reinvent itself.

Some 5-7 million zoological scientific names have been created since 1758 but fewer than 2 million known animals are in existence; many species have been assigned multiple names through history, and clear rules are needed to decide which of these should be used for any given animal. With thousands more new species described annually, the ICZN’s role in helping biologists better describe, catalogue, and study Earth’s immense biodiversity is critical.

“The commission endeavours to refine the rules and procedures to facilitate the study of biodiversity, which is a colossal ongoing task,” Yanega said. “The figure of 2 million is only for species that scientists have described over the last 250 years, while an estimated 10 million species or more still remain unknown, so we still have a staggering amount of work yet to do — and those of us who study insects and other arthropods will have to do nearly all of it.”

At the meeting, he was joined by 20 other ICZN Commissioners, all volunteers, representing many countries and many disciplines.  They discussed the immediate future priorities for the ICZN, its new online registry of all published animal names (named ‘ZooBank’), as well as the rules concerning e-publication. They also discussed impacts of changes in the way scientists describe animals with the many new tools available, and the internet’s impact on the field, including the proliferation of information technology and ways to connect to this growing digital infrastructure.

“We also focused on the Bulletin of Zoological Nomenclature that the Commission produces,” Yanega said.  “Another crucial discussion was what will be required to prepare the fifth edition of the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature, the document containing the rules which govern the naming of species, last revised in 1999. We hope to streamline the process of creating new names, and devise a better method for settling disputes over existing names.”

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Douglas Yanega
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E-mail: dyanega@ucr.edu

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