What is the name of the organism central to the zooplankton part of our project?

Taxonomy is important. And it is important to name organisms correctly to avoid confusion. Next question is what is “correctly”. Two main approaches are possible: go by the rules and go by the usage. The rules are clear: the name in the original description has the priority, unless later revisions change the name; this includes spelling versions. The usage is clear too, since 1989 every publication referenced in WoS and Biological Abstracts call the famous Baikal copepod Epischura baicalensis and no other way.

     Recently I noticed that, current usage of “Epischura baicalensis” notwithstanding, several taxonomic databases, including WoRMS, IUCN Red List and EoL, as well as Wikipedia, list our beloved organism as “Epischura baikalensis“. I e-mailed curators of these resources raising a concern about misnomer and, thanks to IUCN’s Janet Scott, the truth has been established. An inconvenient truth perhaps. “Epischura baikalensis” is not a misnomer, “Epischura baicalensis” is. Sars (1900) described the Baikal species of Epischura as Epischura baikalensis G.O. Sars n.sp. and this nomen is to be used in all publications.

Now, proponents of “baicalensis” might argue that Sars violated the rules of usage of Latin in taxonomic names. Indeed, Baikal should be spelled Baical according to formal Latin rules (the Empire’s soldiers never reached that far east, so we do not know how Romans would have called the Lake). Yet, there is another rule: if the name is based on an existing proper name in languages other than Latin, the native and not Latin spelling should be used. Already at Sar’s time the spelling Baikal prevailed in English literature and hence the k in baikalensis.

Figure 1. Epischura baiKalensis


Figure 2. Sars, 1900.




In addition to this post, I made notes in both the English and the Russian wikipedia pages on E. baikalensis.

References cited

G. O. Sars (1990). “On Epischura baikalensis, a new Calanoid from Baikal Lake”. Annuaire du Musée Zoologique de L’Académie Impériale des Sciences de St.-Pétersbourg  vol. V, pp. 226-240.

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6 Responses to What is the name of the organism central to the zooplankton part of our project?

  1. Kara Woo says:

    This just occurred to me: is Aulacoseira baicalensis wrong, too?

  2. lyampolsky says:

    I do not think so. http://www.algaebase.org/search/species/detail/?species_id=37244
    I do not see A. baikalensis anywhere, so in this case the current usage in the literature and databases and the rules of Latin are in agreement, so there is no reason to suspect any mistakes. Again, E. baikalenis is correct only because Sars chose k over c in his original description.

  3. Kara Woo says:

    Yes, I have never seen it that way either. Only wondered because of the native spelling rule. But I’m happy to keep the “c”. Baikalensis still looks so wrong to me!

  4. Pingback: Getting ready for our own winter adventure! | Lake Baikal Dimensions of Biodiversity

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  6. lyampolsky says:

    BTW, photo credit: Sergey Didorenko

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