I am currently writing a literature review in which I am talking about the old research on the subject. When this research was carried out the species I'm talking about were classed under a different genus (specifically, it used to be called Vibrio fetus and is now called Campylobacter fetus). What is the correct approach for choosing when to use the older name and when to use the newer name? I see three options, although there may be more:

  1. Always use the modern name.
  2. Use the name used by the authors when discussing their work.
  3. Largely use the modern name but make reference to the fact a different name was employed where it is appropriate to do so.

I'm tending towards option 3, but it's sometimes a bit unwieldy. Is there an accepted convention I should be following?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I would also use the modern nomenclature and introduce the old one in the introduction (and probably also in the abstract). I don't like the old nams sticking around, something that can regulary be seen for gene names. It is relatively complicated to search for literature, when you have to do this as well for half a dozen synonyms. Nomenclature exists for a reason. $\endgroup$
    – Chris
    Oct 31, 2014 at 10:04

2 Answers 2


3. is right thing to do. You can mention in the introduction that "Campylobacter fetus, which was previously known as Vibrio fetus [Ref] ........."

You should not use the old name anywhere again (also for the sake of consistency), once you have made it clear that the species was renamed, in the Introduction.

I don't think there is any written convention like that (As such usage of any obsoleted terms is to be avoided and the standard nomenclature as described by ICZN/ICBN etc should be used).

  • $\begingroup$ +1 Also note that it is common that older synonyms are given (sometimes many), e.g. in a parenthesis in the introduction or in methods (where the organism is described). In species determination literture or taxonomic papers clarification of synonyms are often done under a specific heading. $\endgroup$ Oct 31, 2014 at 11:06
  • $\begingroup$ I've also seen cases like this written as "Campylobacter [Vibrio] fetus". Or just use the revised genus and ignore the old name. $\endgroup$
    – kmm
    Oct 31, 2014 at 13:56

There actually is a rule, called the 'Principle of Priority', which states that the nomenclature of a taxonomic group is based upon priority of publication hence option 2 in your question is the correct approach. In the principle III (Principle of Priority) section of the link above it is stated that

This principle states, in essence, that if a taxonomic group has been given two or more names, the correct name is the first name that meets the Code’s standards for publication.

But here the rule doesn't seem to apply....instead there is a piece of literature regarding the reclassification of gen. Vibrio to Campylobacter. In the paper "Neotype Strain for the Type Species,Campylobacter fetus (Smith and Taylor) Sebald and Vkon" (Veron & Chatelain, 1973) they state that:

A critical study of the present state of the classification of vibrio-like, curved, microaerophilic bacteria was made. The species originally described under the names Vibrio coli Doyle, V. jejuni Jones et al., V. sputorum PrCvot, and V. bubulus Florent are transferred to the genus Campylobacter Sebald and VCron 1963. The authors suggest that the type species of this genus, C. fetus, be divided into two subspecies: C. fetus subsp. fetus (Smith and Taylor) comb. nov. (syn. V. fetus subsp. intestinalis Florent), which contains the neotype strain of the species, and C. fetus subsp. venerealis (Florent) comb. nov. The previously described subspecies V. fetus subsp. intermedius Elazhari is regarded as an infrasubspecific taxon with the name C. fetus subsp. venerealis biotype intermedius. CIP 5396 (=ATCC 27374=NCTC 10842) is proposed as the neotype strain of C. fetus subsp. fetus. This strain, then, is also the neotype strain of C. fetus (Smith and Taylor) Sebald and Vkron.

The highlighted words suggest how they have approached in naming the species...

  • $\begingroup$ While this link may answer the question, it is better to include the essential parts of the answer here and provide the link for reference. Link-only answers can become invalid if the linked page changes. $\endgroup$ Nov 4, 2014 at 8:31
  • $\begingroup$ @TheLastWord ..Thanks....Actually have joined just today..so a little low on these 'know-how's... $\endgroup$ Nov 4, 2014 at 11:46
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    $\begingroup$ As I understand the question, this answer is not really relevant. The Q is talking about a reclassification of a species due to new phylogenetic information, so that it is moved to another genus. The Principle of Priority is mainly talking about what name that should take precedence, if there are several descriptions of the same species. In this case, the Vibrio genus is probably in use for another species (which should keep the genus name by 'Principle of Priority'), while Campylobacter fetus has been moved to another genus because of new information $\endgroup$ Nov 4, 2014 at 14:14
  • $\begingroup$ @fileunderwater Ok....but the ambiguity normally arises due to placement of same species in different genus....for example-a species of oomycetes causing ' White rust' disease was named ' Albugo candida ' in 1751 & just after 2 years in 1753 it was named as ' Cystopus candidans ' & after that placed even in 'Acedium' & 'Uredo' genus...but the principle prevailed & the original name or basidionym is kept as " Albugo candida " and the rest were just designated by synonyms...there of course can be exceptions...but generally the essence & application of the rule is maintained... $\endgroup$ Nov 4, 2014 at 16:58
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I think you're confusing more than one thing here. Campylobacter fetus is the correct, current, internationally recognised name for the species. Like many species, it has been moved to a different genus than it was originally assigned to. The principle of priority applies when the same species has been identified by different researchers. $\endgroup$ Nov 5, 2014 at 8:05

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