International Code of Zoological Nomenclature

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The International Code of Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN) is a widely accepted convention in zoology which rules the formal scientific naming of organisms treated as animals. The rules, often referred to as "the Code" (or "ICZN Code"), regulate principally

It was first published in 1961, although it has precedents such as Merton's Rules,[1] and Strickland's codes[2] going back to 1842;[3] the 3rd edition was from 1985, the present edition is the fourth edition (effective since 2000). The Code is elaborated by the Editorial Committee[4] and issued by the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature. The Editorial Committee for the 4th edition was composed of seven persons appointed by the Commission. Such new editions of the ICZN Code are not democratically approved by those taxonomists who are forced to follow the Code's provisions, neither do taxonomists have the right to vote for the members of the Commission or the Editorial Committee.

As the Commission may alter the Code (by declarations and amendments) without issuing a new edition of the book, it is not necessarily so that the current edition contains the actual provision that applies in a particular case. Currently the Code consists of the original text and Declaration 44. The Code is published in an English and a French[5] version, both versions are official and equivalent in force, meaning and authority.[6] This means that if something in the English Code is unclear or its interpretation ambiguous, the French version is decisive - and if there is something unclear in the French Code, the English version is decisive.

The Code deals with zoological nomenclature, which is defined in the Glossary as

Zoological nomenclature is independent of other systems of nomenclature, for example botanical nomenclature. This implies that animals can have the same generic names as plants.

The rules and recommendations have one fundamental aim: to provide the maximum universality and continuity in the naming of all animals, except where taxonomic judgment dictates otherwise. The Code is meant to guide only the nomenclature of animals, while leaving the zoologists freedom in classifying new taxa. In other words, whether a species itself is or is not an entity to be recognized is a subjective decision, but what name should be applied to it is not; the Code applies only to the latter, not to the former. A new animal name published without adherence to the Code may be deemed simply "unavailable" if it fails to meet certain criteria, or fall entirely out of the province of science (e.g., the "scientific name" for the Loch Ness Monster).

The rules in the Code determine what names are valid for any taxon in the family group, genus group, and species group. It has additional (but more limited) provisions on names in higher ranks. The Code recognizes no case law. Any dispute is to be decided first by applying the Code directly, and not by reference to precedent. The Code is also retroactive or retrospective, which means that previous editions of the Code, or previous other rules and conventions have no force any more today,[7] and the nomenclatural acts published back in the old times are to be evaluated only under the present edition of the Code. In cases of disputes concerning the interpretation, the usual procedure is to consult the French Code, lastly a case can be brought to the Commission who has the right to publish a final decision.[8]

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