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Codes of Nomenclature

  1. Micah I Krichevsky

Published Online: 16 APR 2012

DOI: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0000452.pub2



How to Cite

Krichevsky, M. I. 2012. Codes of Nomenclature. eLS. .

Author Information

  1. Bionomics International, Wheaton, Maryland, USA

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 16 APR 2012


Codes of Nomenclature are the agreed conventions for naming biological groups. The various Codes define the rules for constructing the names of biological entities. Different organisations within the The International Council for Science (ICSU) control the individual Codes for zoology, botany, prokaryotes (bacteria and archea) and viruses. With the single exception of viruses, the Codes allow for competing taxonomies. In the other Codes, the competition arises because no judicial systems exist for choosing among the competitors. Only usage dictates the winners. Some organism groups are redundant in coverage between Codes. The Codes differ in defining examples of organism deposit and availability as benchmarks for species. Other codes have been proposed, such as Biocode (treat rationalisation of the ICSU recognised Codes) and PhyloCode (basing the code on phylogenetic criteria).

Key Concepts:

  • An inherent tension exists between stability of names and changes resulting from further study.

  • The various rules of nomenclature define the construction of the names of species, albeit somewhat differently in details.

  • With the exception of viruses, benchmark examples (Types, Type Specimens, Type Cultures, Type Descriptions, etc.) are required to allow for species comparison and identification.

  • The published description of a new taxon rarely, if ever, indicates the boundaries of the taxon.

  • Taxonomies function as useful indexing systems to locate members in biological space and are not absolute.

  • Both among and within taxa at all levels new information causes changes in views of the centres and borders of taxa.


  • nomenclature;
  • codes;
  • taxon;
  • names;
  • type deposition