Issue 76: Contemporary Naming Procedure

Starting Date: 
Working Group: 
Closing Date: 

The discussion in Monterey, Feb. 2002 about Natural History requirements for the CIDOC CRM identified the following:

Documentation structures for Natural History can be separated into ordinary collection management issues and the taxonomic discourse. The first seems to be covered completely by the CIDOC CRM version 3.2.

Of particular interest is the field collection information of specimen - location, habitat etc., and ecosystem level observations. Formalization of the latter (ecosystem structure) seems however to be beyond the practical scope of the CRM.

The taxonomic discourse can be separated into taxon creation, naming conventions and identification procedures. The group felt, that the taxonomic discourse of Natural History is very similar to that in archaeology, to a degree that virtually all underlying concepts can be found in both domains. However, the Natural History discourse is more standardized in terms and procedure, and the employed terminology is completely different.

The CIDOC CRM requires extensions to cater for the taxonomic discourse of Natural History, in a generic way, such that all cultural and Natural History taxonomic work can equally benefit from this model. The difference in terminology should be dealt with in the scope notes.

Taxon Creation or Contemporary Naming Procedure:

A taxonomic grouping of organisms creates a taxon, which should be named according to the Codes of Nomenclature. In the case of a species, look at a range of specimens different from anything previously published, write a description (protologue in botany), find a single representative specimen or exemplar (holotype), assign a scientific name according to International Codes for Nomenclature, document it in a paper and, finally publish the paper which validates the name. This description refers to the creation and naming of a taxon ranked as a species or lower; other taxa may be groups of species (genera, families, etc.). Prior to the early days of the 20th century, holotypes were generally not selected from the original sample of specimens (syntypes), which may create ambiguous situations when a set of original elements that gave rise to a new taxon are found to belong to more than one species. For that purpose, contemporary work may declare one specimen of the original elements as the prototype = lectotype.

The Group agreed, that the terms "holotype", "lectotype" etc. are not of E55 Type, but kinds of relationships between a taxon and a specimen. The same holds for several other Natural History "Types", as defined in:

Original sources on the web:;; Plants);

It was pointed out that different authors' concepts may be dealing with the same name. The problem of the "potential taxon" is largely dealt with using "secundum" ("according to") followed by the literary references (author and publication) used to define it.

See: W.Berendsohn (1995): The concept of potential taxa in databases. Taxon 44, 207-212.

The following statements hold:
Taxon Creation is an Event, more specifically a Conceptual Creation. 
It takes place in a Place and Time.
It creates a Taxon. There is also a description of the Taxon (the Protologue) - similar to the scope note in a thesaurus.
The Taxon has note: String
(has type : Protologue).
The Taxon Creation is based on/ had original elements: Biological Object.

Taxon Creation had original elements: Biological Object
"Taxon Creation" designated holotype Biological Object 
"Taxon Creation" designated paratype Biological Object 
"Taxon Creation" created taxon Taxon 
Taxon has type Type
Taxon is identified by (Taxon-) Appellation
Taxon has broader term: Taxon.
Taxon is documented in:Document (Publication)


Current Proposal: 

Introduce a new entity, either biology-specific, or generic. Biology-specific it would read:

E?? Taxon Creation
  Subclass of: Conceptual Creation
  Scope note: Taxon Creation is the process that declares a new class of genetically related living beings. It looks at a range of like specimens, creates a description (protologue in botany), finds a single representative specimen or exemplar (holotype), assigns a scientific name (Taxon) according to International Codes for Nomenclature and documents it in a paper. The protologue will appear as note of the created taxon.
  created taxon (was created by): Taxon
had original elements (is original element of) : Biological Object
designated (had taxonomic role for): Biological Object 
(as type: Type)
where "as type" would be one of "holotype". "lectotype" etc.


E?? Taxon
  Subclass of: T20 Type
  Scope note: A Taxon is a class of genetically related living beings.
  is identified by (identifies): Taxon Appellation


E?? Taxon Appellation
  subclass of: E41 Appellation

The generic model would be:

E?? Type Creation
  Subclass of: Conceptual Creation
  Scope note: Type Creation is the process by which a new class of items is defined and published, following a scholarly or scientific good practice in the definition of the distinctive properties and the naming of the new class. Archeologist would call the new class a type, whereas biologists would call a new class of genetically related living beings a taxon. A biological taxon creation consists of the following steps: It looks at a range of like specimens, creates a description (protologue in botany), finds a single representative specimen or examplar (holotype), assigns a taxon name according to International Codes for Nomenclature and documents it in a paper. The protologue will appear as note of the created taxon. Similarly, an Archeologist would look at a range of like objects, and publish the distinctive criteria and the name he assigns to the new type. He may or may not select a prototype or an archetype from the studied material.
  created type (was created by): Type
was based on (supported type creation): Entity
  (in the taxonomic role: Type)

This model can be seen as an abstraction of the previous one. It basically introduces the relationship between the Type Creation process and the material (normally kept in a museum) that allows other researchers to verify the properties of the new type. There seems to be a need for a short-cut:

E55 Type
  is exemplified by (exemplifies) : Entity
    (in the taxonomic role: Type)

I propose to make Type a Conceptual Object. The link "refers to" seems however to be counterintuitive for both, Types and Rights. I propose to lower
the domain of "refers to" to Information Object. The links about use and intention seem to make sense: "Canis lupus. was intended for: Biological Classification", "LCSH bridges. was intended for: Access to Literature by Subject".

A question only touched during the meeting was how to deal with a-posteriori declaration event of taxonomic roles, like "lectotype". May be, this could be a specialization of a Type Assignment. Simpler seems to be, to regard it as an extension of the taxonomic process, but this may lead to irregularities with the creation date of the taxon. May be, it is out of scope.

Martin Doerr, Walter Berendson, Karl-Heinz Lampe


The second, generic model was accepted. 
Type becomes a subclass of E28 Conceptual Object. 
P67 changes domain from E28 to E73 Information Object.
Copenhagen, 5/7/2002