Bock, Walter J. Department of Biological Sciences, Columbia University, New York, New York.
Last reviewed:January 2021
- Type designations
- Stabilization of names
- Related Primary Literature
- Additional Reading
The nomenclatural method for providing a fixed reference point for a taxon (plural, taxa), a group of organisms. When Linnaeus, the eighteenth-century Swedish naturalist, ushered in the modern period of systematic biology through the publication of his classical work, Systema Naturae, he established the basis of binomial nomenclature. By means of this method the systematist who recognizes new, or supposedly new, taxa makes these known by means of a technical description and a scientific name. If the new taxon is a species, the material (specimens or parts of specimens) which the author had before him when he described it, together with such additional material as he may have gathered later, was considered typical, and such specimens were known as types. The types represented the author's notion of the new species and served as the basis of comparison. As knowledge increased, it was realized that each taxonomic name must be tied to a single specimen—the “type”—which is a nomenclatural, not a biological, type. Having a fixed reference for each name, later workers could correct taxonomic errors and modify the limits of species taxa without subsequent confusion in scientific names.
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