Sacoglossan nomenclatural problems

A place for general discussions on names, name changes etc.

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Problems with sacoglossan name changes

April 20, 2006
From: Cynthia Trowbridge

Dear Bill, Kathe, and other sacoglossan colleagues,

As an ecologist, I need some assistance understanding a few of the "rules" of taxonomy. I would be very grateful if someone could help explain to me a few general issues.

1. Taxonomic authorities

a. With marine algae, the taxonomic authority [namely, the person who described the species] is credited as well as the person who changed the species to its currently used name. However, with molluscs (perhaps all invertebrates?), the protocol is different: the original authority is put in curved brackets ( ). Is there some systematic way to determine who made the final name change in opisthobranch species? If not, then the requisite chain of evidence for a non-taxonomist is often unclear from the opisthobranch literature. Suggestions of resources of "currently recognized names" would be helpful... something equivalent to developed for algae.

b. Why do taxonomists not cite type descriptions in their bibliographies? I often have difficulty finding full citations of descriptions because of this issue.... Thus, the Web of Science Citation Index and other similar tools (electronic and hardcopy) will not lead me back to the original description. Specifically, I wonder if there may be some index that compiles citations of type descriptions...? The interlibrary loan and reference librarians here are not aware of any for opisthobranchs. I would be grateful for suggestions and advice of resource tools.

Name changes

a. One of the important assets of the Sea Slug Forum is that it has enabled many of us to link up species described under different names and it provides a "paper trail" or "evidence trail". In message #16016, Kathe, you asked "where I can publish a paper just transferring one species from one genus to another without contributing any new scientific data, I will be happy to do so." Messages in the Forum are considered "citable publications" as an informal paper trail. Bill and Kathe, you both have been very gracious with your time about linking up species (e.g., Elysia rufescens vs. E. kushimotoensis); many other colleagues have as well. I thank you all; such messages are extremely valuable to synthesize our base of knowledge base. I particularly appreciate discussions of uncertainty (e.g., Elysia ornata, marginata, grandifolia ).

b. With that said, could anyone help me with either of the following issues?

- Elysia lobata (Gould, 1852) vs. Elysia tokarensis Baba, 1957: many Japanese colleagues are using these names synonymously but I cannot find an explicit paper, internet message, or other direct evidence linking the two names. I have no issue with the synonymy except who has "formalized" it and where. Suggestions would be gratefully accepted.

- Elysia babai Pruvot-Fol, 1945 or 1946 (= Elysia viridis in Baba 1936) from Okinawa: does anyone have a species referable to that name? It is based on page 38 from Pruvot-Fol, A. (1945 or 1946) Revision critique de la famille des Elysiadae. Journal de conchyliologie 87: 29-44.

Thank you in advance for suggestions!


Trowbridge, C.D., 2006 (Apr 20) Problems with sacoglossan name changes. [Message in] Sea Slug Forum. Australian Museum, Sydney. Available from

Dear Cynthia,
I'm afraid the Rules of Animal Nomenclature are a little different from plants so the best we can do is ( ) when we change the genera of a species. You are also quite right to be frustrated by the lack of an easy source of original descriptions. Fortunately Henry Russell's Index Nudibranchia (1971) exists, but it is no use for non nudibranchs such as the sacoglossans. There are various web based lists of names but I think it is fair to say that none have had the benefit of an editor who knows the topic so they often mislead. Hopefully one day a funding organisation will realise the value of funding specialists to do the job properly even if only in a small area of expertise - better to have the Elysiidae (Placobranchidae? Plakobranchidae?) done properly than say all the sacoglossans done superficially by grad students with no knowledge of the group.

Hopefully Kathe has some ideas on some of your specific queries.

Best wishes,
Bill Rudman

Rudman, W.B., 2006 (Apr 20). Comment on Problems with sacoglossan name changes by Cynthia Trowbridge. [Message in] Sea Slug Forum. Australian Museum, Sydney. Available from