Differing Latin Names

To: <>
Subject: Differing Latin Names
From: Syd Curtis <>
Date: Thu, 25 Jan 2001 06:51:21 +1000
On 24/01/2001, Paul Van Gasse wrote:

> In fact, scientific names should be constant - unless some previous mistakes
> would be discovered. But that only applies to the species name - the second
> part of the binomial. The first part is the genus name, which indicates
> relationships with other taxa.

Sadly, the first (generic) name can change too, though admittedly only
rarely.  For example, Volume 49 of the Australian Flora (covering the plants
of Norfolk and Lord Howe Islands) changes the genus that I learnt 50 years
ago as Omalanthus, to Homolanthus.  A difference of only one letter, but
critical if one is looking for it in an alphabetically arranged list.

And this is explanation given for the change:

   "The name was originally spelt Omalanthus, without an initial letter h to
represent the Greek spiritus asper in the word homalos, (Jussieu, being
French, would have pronounced it as he spelt it), but this is an
orthographic error and should be corrected."

Don't these taxonomists have fun?  I sometimes wish I'd had a classical
education.  A. Jussieu, of course, was the original author of the genus.

BTW, on the subject of Lord Howe Island plants, the Flora reveals what a
very series weed problem this World Heritage Listed island has.  Of the 459
species recognised by the Flora, a shocking 47.5% (218 species) are
naturalised introductions!  And the island has 105 species that occur
nowhere else in the world.  These latter include five genera that occur only
on the island.  On the tiny plateau top of Mt Gower, almost every plant you
see is an endemic.

Anyone enjoying the special privilege of holidaying on Lord Howe might like
to consider helping with the weed control.

Syd Curtis in Brisbane, Australia. 
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