English Names for subspecies

Subject: English Names for subspecies
From: John Penhallurick <>
Date: Tue, 06 Nov 2001 12:39:47 +1100
Robertson & Nunn (1997) proposed a number of splits in Albatross species.
Part of their justification for embracing the Phylogenetic Species Concept
was that the recognition of what were formerly treated as subspecies as
subspecies would assist the conservation of these taxa.

Their concern for conservation was appropriate.  Dick Schodde in his
excellent Directory of Australian Birds: Passerines points out that
extinction affects populations rather than species, and coins the term
ultrataxa to try to get around the pejorative view of subspecies.

It occurs to me that one way we can get around the problem of recognition
of populations, without distorting scientific classification by calling
everything a species, is to use English Names for subspecies.  This was
done by Hellmayr and Conover and by Ridgway in their checklists of American
birds.  I think it would have two advantages.  1. Politicians can
understand English names much better than Latin names.  By all means let's
call Diomedea exulans gibsoni "Gibson's Albatross" and D.e.dabbenana the
"Tristan Albatross", and demand that they be protected.  2. Most
birdwatchers are not too hot on Latin names.  How many of us could give the
Latin name of every Australian bird?  English names are important for
birdwatchers, and providing English names for subspecies  is a good way for
birders to become more interested in them.

What do you think?
John Penhallurick
Associate Professor John M. Penhallurick<>
Canberra, Australia
Phone BH( 61 2) 6201 2346   AH (61 2) 62585428
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