Introduction to the Draft BioCode (1997)


The August 1996 publication by IUBS of the Third Draft of the BioCode (International Committee for Bionomenclature 1996) contains a "General Introduction" (McNeill 1996 - also available at This introduction should be consulted for background to the Draft BioCode, for a description of its scope and status, and for a comparison of the Draft BioCode with existing Codes of bionomenclature.

The Third Draft was circulated widely in order to receive comments from the scientific community. In light of these comments, the International Committee on Bionomenclature has reviewed the Third Draft of the BioCode and made a number of revisions to take account of these comments. These are incorporated in the appended fourth draft, "The Draft BioCode (1997)", and are described below.

Key changes from Third Draft (1996):

The following substantive changes were made to the 1996 "Third draft" (Greuter et al. 1996, see also taking note of input received by the International Committee on Bionomenclature from the scientific community. The references are to the items of the Draft BioCode that have been amended in consequence.

1. The putative operational date has been changed from "1 January 2000", to "1 January 200n", recognizing that the original "notional" date (cf. McNeill, 1996, p.16) could not be met given the timings of relevant meetings of the bodies responsible for the existing Codes. Equally, the urgency of having a BioCode in place for adoption as major groups achieve modern approaches to nomenclature is recognized by indicating a date within the first decade of the millennium. (Pre. 2, 3; Art. 7.2, 7.3, 8.1, 16 Note 1, 18.1, 19.1, 28.3, 28 Note 1, 37.2 - 37.4, 38.2, 38.3)

2. The family-group is now restricted to the ranks of superfamily, family, and subfamily; tribe and subtribe are now considered subdivisions of a family. Note that, like subdivisions of a genus (e.g. section and series), subdivisions of a family are not subject to the rules on precedence. (Art. 4.3; see also 9.3, 19.4 and 19.8).

3. Minor modifications were made to the Table of equivalence of nomenclatural terms, clarifying the use of "precedence" and "priority" (see also Prin. IV, Art. 19.1, 19.8), and introducing the term "registerable" for that concept.

4. Clarification was made in the rules dealing with names of subgenera relative to those of subdivisions of genera. Reflecting current bacteriological practice, the new rule establishes that, in all groups, a generic name, even published prior to 1 January 200n, establishes at the same time the corresponding subgeneric name, but not the corresponding names of subdivisions of genera. This is a new feature only for names falling under the existing botanical Code; it will not, however, be destabilizing because, unlike the co-ordinate status provisions of the ICZN, it only applies in the "downward" direction; a subgeneric name will not establish the corresponding generic name until after 1 January 200n. (Art, 28.2, 29.2, 30.1; and Art. 29.3 transferred to 30.2, Rec. 30A).

5. The prefix "infra" has been added to those allowed for the creation of additional ranks (Art. 4.2). Specifically, this facilitates a stabilising solution to the problem that acceptance of co-ordinate status in the genus-group would create for existing names of botanical subgenera. By treating these, from 1 January 200n, as "infragenera" (Art. 28.3), they retain their potential as basionyms, without disrupting nomenclature at the generic level.

6. The term parataxa is introduced in those categories of organisms where, for practical reasons, some taxa are recognized and can be named that correspond only to parts of organisms or to definite stages of their life history. These categories are: fossil plants and fungi (algae excepted); fungi with a pleomorphic life history, and trace fossils (ichnotaxa). (Art. 2.2 & former 3.2; 36.2, 36.3, 36 Notes 1-3)

7. It was made clear that the requirement for registration only applies to names in the species, genus and family-groups. (Art. 8.1 (f)).

8. Of the two alternative proposals on orthography (Art. 37.3), version 1 was selected and the status of pre-200n names and other aspects of orthography clarified (Art. 37.4, 37.5, 37.6, 37 Note 1).

9. A 80% majority, rather than a 75% one, will be required for the International Committee on Bionomenclature to approve changes to the BioCode. (Div. III 6.3)

Other, more minor, changes from the Third Draft (1996):

In addition many minor improvements were made in wording. Most of these were to improve clarity of expression (e.g. in Pre. 1; Prin. II, III, VII, IX; Art. 2.1 with 3.1, 5.1, 8.1 (d), 8.2, 8.4, 9.1, 10.1, 11.1, 15.1, 18.1, 37.2, 39.1, Chapter VI title), or provide better cross-referencing (Art. 13.1, 19.4, 21.1, 21.4, 22.6, 23.3, 31.1, 31.5, 37.1, Div. III 2-5, 6.2-6.3, 9).

Minor changes clarify:

(i) that viruses are not considered "organisms" (Pre. 2, 3, and deletion of former Pre. 4);

(ii) the requirements for publication, particularly with respect to electronic media (Art. 5);

(iii) registration requirements or procedures (Art. 13.3, 18.4, formerly 18.3, 19.5, 40.8);

(iv) specifics of preservation of type material (Art. 15.3, 15 Note 1; 16.1, 16.3, 16.4, 16 Note 1, former 22.9, now deleted);

(v) Implications of the homonymy rule for names in the species-group (Art. 18 Note 1);

(vi) implications of co-ordinate status in the species-group on homonymy at infra-subspecific ranks (new Art. 18.2, 32.1, 32.2, 33.2, Rec. 33A);

(vii) the status of confusingly similar names (Art. 18.3, formerly 18.2, 38.1, 38.2, 38.3, 38 Note 1);

(viii) the implications of co-ordinate status in the species, genus and family-groups (Art. 19.2, 19.3, 19 Note 1);

(ix) the form of "descriptive names" for taxa above the rank of superfamily (Art. 25 Note 1; Rec. 25A)

(x) he rules governing plant hybrids and cultivated plants (Art. 34),

(xi) the role and usage of authorship of names (Art. 40.1, 41.1).

(xii) usage of the term "Special Codes" for the existing Codes, that will continue to have some applicability for the names of the past, i.e., the International Code of Nomenclature of Bacteria: Bacteriological Code, the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature, and the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature. (Pre. 3, Div. III 4, 5).


Greuter, W., D.L. Hawksworth, J. McNeill, M.A. Mayo, A. Minelli, P.H.A. Sneath, B.J. Tindall, P. Trehane and P. Tubbs (the IUBS/IUMS International Committee for Bionomenclature) (eds.). 1996. Draft BioCode: the prospective international rules for the scientific names of organisms. Taxon 45: 349-372. (reprinted in: International Committee on Bionomenclature 1996, pp. 19-42; Bulletin of Zoological Nomenclature 53: 148-166; also available electronically as: Royal Ontario Museum:

International Committee on Bionomenclature (D.L. Hawksworth (Chair), W. Greuter, J. McNeill, M.A. Mayo, A. Minelli, P.H.A. Sneath, B.J. Tindall, P. Trehane and P. Tubbs) (eds.). 1996. Draft BioCode: the prospective international rules for the scientific names of organisms. International Union of Biological Sciences, Paris. 42 pp.

McNeill, J. 1996. General introduction to the Draft BioCode. In: International Committee on Bionomenclature (1996) pp. 7-18. (also available electronically as: Royal Ontario Museum:

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