What do var, cf. etc mean?

May 21, 2001
From: Nishina Chikako

Hello Dr.Rudman,
Thank you for identifying my animal. I just wondering whether there is a standard which distinguishes between cf. and var. clearly, or a conclusive factor. how about cf. var. sp. or spp?
How do you decide what to use?

Sincerely yours,
Nishina Chikako


Nishina Chikako, 2001 (May 21) What do var, cf. etc mean?. [Message in] Sea Slug Forum. Australian Museum, Sydney. Available from http://www.seaslugforum.net/find/4273

Dear Chikako,
These abbreviations you mention can be confusing but they have a distinct meaning.

sp as in 'Chromodoris sp.' means this is a species belonging to the genus Chromodoris. It does not necessarily mean that the species does not have a name. It just means that the person using 'Tritonia sp.' does not know if the species has a name. In the Forum I have numbered these unnamed species Chromodoris sp. 1, Chromodoris sp. 2 etc so we can refer to them easily.

In some cases I have used names like 'tritoniid sp. 1'. This just means that I am not sure what genus the species belongs to but it does belong in the family Tritoniidae.

spp as in 'Chromodoris spp.' is the plural of 'Chromodoris sp.'. It just means some, or many, species of Chromodoris.

cf is from a Latin word and means 'refer to' or 'compare with'. So when I call something Chromodoris cf. maculosa it means I am not sure what it is but I think it could be Chromodoris maculosa or something closely related, or it looks quite like it. It has no taxonomic status and is just a convenient way of temporarily naming an animal until its true identity can be worked out.

var I don't use 'var' which is short for 'variety'. Some taxonomists used to subdivide species into distinct varieties or forms based on some difference in colour or shape, and they used to give these 'varieties' names. Variety names have no status in zoological nomenclature. I talk of colour variations but that is just to describe colour pattern differences.

I hope that makes sense. If not, please ask me to explain anything you don't follow. I realise it must be difficult for those of you whose first language is not English so don't worry about asking me to explain again. I am happy to do so.

Best wishes,
Bill Rudman

Rudman, W.B., 2001 (May 21). Comment on What do var, cf. etc mean? by Nishina Chikako. [Message in] Sea Slug Forum. Australian Museum, Sydney. Available from http://www.seaslugforum.net/find/4273


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