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Genus Name Codes

We have collection codes and we have species codes. Are these genus codes? Very good question. Huber gave the best answer so far which is really more like a statement of the problem:

Q(5): What is the best way to abbreviate generic names? (Roger Brousseau, February 2001)
A: Generic name abbreviations are standardized for scientific publications: first is stated the name in full (e.g., Rivulus), then for any further mentions is stated the first letter (e.g., R.), followed by the concerned species name. However, this may become awkward when several genera are mentioned that start with the same letter (e.g., Renova). The main problem arises when lists of species in several genera are built, then common sense should prevail: old, frequently used genera may be abbreviated strongly with a single letter (e.g., A. for Aphyosemion or F. for Fundulus), but other genera with the same starting letter will be abbreviated with two or three or four letters (but not more, because it is no more an abbreviation and it looses its interest) and it can be used to differentiate two similar names (e.g., Ep. for Epiplatys, as commonly used, and, Epis. for Episemion, subsequently described). A spiny problem occurs when 4 or more starting letters are identical (e.g., Fundulus, Fundulosoma, Fundulopanchax), then usage and pragmatism should prevail (respectively, F., Fund., and inevitably Fp., with the first and the last genera being the most speciose). Describers should avoid to create taxonomic names with such strong similarities, but this is the trend today when several generic names are stemmed from the same root, indicating their relationship, as Austrolebias, Megalebias, Stenolebias… (although this relationship may prove later to be erroneous, like Pachypanchax and Micropanchax). This difficulty has been exacerbated recently with the description of Austrolebias whereas Austrofundulus was already known and its standard abbreviation has had to be changed in Killi-Data: Austrof. for Austrofundulus and Austrol. for Austrolebias and (update) even more with the description of Notholebias by Costa in 2008 which is easily (and regrettably) confused with Nothobranchius (Jean Huber, finalized, March 2001, February 2009).

In other words there is no system, it's arbitrary and capricious and if you know all the genus names you can probably guess what a genus name us but to the uninitiated it's just more word letter soup.

As Huber points out, we have standards for these things in taxonomy, and the nice thing about standards is there are of course so many to choose from and Huber presents three methods not one of which fails to have examples that do not work, they are ambiguous. Ambiguity is not a desirable property in a mnemonic system which is formally what these abbreviation codes are.

Any single letter is ambiguous iff there is more than one genus that starts with that letter. We should be able to easily have a list of all genus names.

Any similar Genus names prevent use of these as a genus code, Huber's example of Fundul* as a root name is the classic example. But there may be two letter codes that do not clash.

Three letter codes are ruled out as indistinguishable from species codes.

Four letter codes would be more readable and mnemonic but at twice the lnegth of two letter genus codes.

Collection Codes

Species Name Codes

Scheel created a system of three letter codes to represent killifish species names which took all questio of Genus out of the question. 'GER' works as well when it represents Aphyosemion geryi as well is at does Roloffia gery or Scriptapyosemion geryi three different names for the fish have known since the 1970s as "GER". It's shorter to write or type and Scheel might now have known this but lends itself very well to information systems. Upon Scheel's death in 1991 I presumed it upon myself to keep adding to this set of codes. Costa had begun using them too in early papers but the names clashed with Scheel so I corrected that in my version and extended the set from just African and Asian fish in Scheel's system to include also American and European fish and still add new codes to this as new species are described.

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Richard J. Sexton