How can I describe a new species?

The ICZN does not usually deal with the routine descriptions, naming and publishing of new species, this is a practical matter for taxonomists however the ICZN does define the rules which create the framework under which this can be undertaken.

Describing new species is a task for a specialist; much research may be needed to be sure a species has not already been described, and to decide if it is sufficiently different from existing species to describe. The characters considered diagnostic by taxonomists are often highly technical and specific to particular to groups of animals, so it is best to consult an expert in the group concerned. Taxonomic procedure is described in published works such as Winston, J. 1999. Describing species. Columbia University Press.

It is important for taxonomists to follow the rules set by the ICZN when describing species, these ensure, for example:

  • the description is published in a work that is obtainable in numerous identical copies, as a permanent scientific record (criteria of publication, Chapter 3);
  • the scientific name must be spelled using the 26 letters of the Latin alphabet; binominal nomenclature must be consistently used; and new names must be used as valid when proposed (criteria of availability, Chapter 4);
  • that names are consistently formed following certain rules; that original spellings can be established (formation of names, Chapter 7);
  • that names are based on name-bearing types, the objective standard of reference for the application of zoological names (Chapter 16);
  • that general recommendations are followed for ethical behaviour (Appendix A);
  • and that best practice should be used to give taxa names which are unique, unambiguous and universal (Appendix B).
Scratchpads developed and conceived by (alphabetical): Ed Baker, Katherine Bouton Alice Heaton Dimitris Koureas, Laurence Livermore, Dave Roberts, Simon Rycroft, Ben Scott, Vince Smith