About the ICZN

Standards, sense and stability for animal names

The ICZN provides and regulates a uniform system of zoological nomenclature ensuring that every animal has a unique and universally accepted scientific name.

The maintenance of international standards in animal nomenclature is the unique role of the Commission. It is not the role of the Commission to become involved in taxonomic issues except where they have nomenclatural implications.

The International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN) was founded in 1895. Its task is to create, publish and, periodically, to revise the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature. The Commission also considers and rules on specific cases of nomenclatural uncertainty. These rulings are published as 'Opinions' in the Bulletin of Zoological Nomenclature.

The Commission

The Commission currently comprises 27 members from 19 countries. The work of the Commission is supported by a small Secretariat based at the Natural History Museum in London.

The Commission operates in two main ways:

  • ICZN publishes the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature containing the rules universally accepted as governing the application of scientific names to all organisms which are treated as animals.
  • ICZN provides rulings on individual nomenclatural problems brought to its attention, in order to achieve internationally acceptable solutions and stability.

How it works

Several million species of animals are recognised, and more than 2000 new genus names and 15,000 new species names are added to the zoological literature every year. With so many names, problems are bound to occur. The Commission operates through its quarterly journal, the Bulletin of Zoological Nomenclature, in which problems needing a formal decision by the Commission are published for discussion by the zoological community. The BZN provides a platform for presentation of Cases, public input and final results of Commission consideration that is transparent, accessible and archived.

The Commission is mandated by its scientific membership of the International Union of Biological Sciences (IUBS), and members are elected by zoologists attending General Assemblies of IUBS or other international congresses. Casual vacancies may be filled between congresses. Nominations for membership may be sent to the ICZN Secretariat at any time.

An overview of the history of the Commission was published in 1995. The Centenary History of the Commission - Towards Stability in the Names of Animals is obtainable from the Secretariat.

Why?

The Commission's work directly affects:

Scratchpads developed and conceived by (alphabetical): Ed Baker, Katherine Bouton Alice Heaton Dimitris Koureas, Laurence Livermore, Dave Roberts, Simon Rycroft, Ben Scott, Vince Smith