I understand the gist of how to construct a name using the Binomial Nomenclature, but I don't understand how to select a unique name.
My contrived example comes from looking at this:
acaulis: stemless, e.g. silver thistle, Carlina acaulis.
So assuming the naming is
<Genus> <Species>, then within the genus say we have 20 species already, which is fairly modest given this description of genus size:
The number of species in genera varies considerably among taxonomic groups. For instance, among (non-avian) reptiles, which have about 1180 genera, the most (>300) have only 1 species, ~360 have between 2 and 4 species, 260 have 5-10 species, ~200 have 11-50 species, and only 27 genera have more than 50 species (see figure). However, some insect genera such as the bee genera Lasioglossum and Andrena have over 1000 species each. The largest flowering plant genus, Astragalus, contains over 3,000 species.
Looking at the Astragalus genus gives some insight to the potential naming conflicts.
But say we have our 20 species in our custom genus. Our genus is called
Foo and our species are (translated into Latin):
Yellow Green Blue Shiny Spotted ...
Now say we discover a new species and the prominent features are that it is both
Yellow, whereas those previously defined species are only either
Yellow, not both. So now we have one that is both, and we are having a hard time finding any other distinguishing factors.
One approach would be to call it the
Double (diplo-) species, since it is both
Shiny. So perhaps we add to our list (in Latin maybe "diplopicta")
Foo DualColor (or Foo Diplopicta)
But wait! We already have used this technique (let's say). We look further in the original list and yep it's already there.
Yellow Green Blue Shiny Spotted ... DualColor ...
So we can't use that technique. So maybe we go to the location, say it is northern:
But wait! We already used that technique too!
Yellow Green Blue Shiny Spotted ... DualColor ... NorthernLocation ...
So now maybe we just try using another feature that we haven't used yet in any of the other species. Maybe this thing also is slightly larger than most of the other ones, and we haven't used
Large as a property.
So we add (in Latin):
Then we find some more species and we keep having to try to come up with new ways to get unique names. Maybe we try other things like:
- Specific continent.
- A feature that hasn't been used yet.
- The discoverers name.
Already it's kind of brittle feeling.
Now let's say we discover a new species in the genus again. But this one is really really yellow. Way more yellow than the previous one we called yellow. And that is it's only distinguishing feature. I would like to know what is done in this situation.
I would like to know, generally, how this process like described above is handled in practice in the real world.
So we have this new yellow thing. Now we want to rename the old species and use
Yellow for this one, and come up with something better for the old one. Not a problem if this information hasn't been shared yet. But if it's already been shared all over the world then you can't really change it, at least not with a long and drawn out, carefully managed process.
So we're stuck with the less than ideal name for our new "really really yellow" thing, and we just end up calling it:
But at this point I feel like might as well just give it a number ID since there's not really any meaningful connection (though history perhaps is a good enough connection).
Basically I'm wondering how good names are created for things using the Binomial Nomenclature, and how naming conflicts (or the desire to change names) are handled. The example above outlines a scenario that one might encounter when trying to uniquely name species within a genus, and I am wondering how it is handled in practice.
As an example, from here it reads:
If on the other hand the taxon appears never to have been named at all, then the scientist or another qualified expert picks a type specimen and publishes a new name and an official description.
But it doesn't explain how this works, the issues they had to consider as outlined above.