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Naming Nudibranchs





There is a rigorous and quite defined process for the naming of a species. (This is not a how-to guide.)


For the name of a species to be accepted the animal must be properly described in great detail. This work is usually undertaken by a taxonomist with a great deal of experience as the characters considered diagnostic are often highly technical and specific to particular groups of animals.


There must be no doubt as to which family and to which genus the animal belongs and it must possess the defining features of that family and genus. It must be demonstrated that the animal is different from every other species in that genus and has not been described before. Therefore a complete knowledge of all the species of that genus is required and a review of all the literature concerning that genus is essential. There should also be awareness of which features in that genus are considered variable within a species i.e. the intraspecific variations that might have been recorded previously.


The description is written up in the form of a scientific paper (see above right) and submitted to a reputable scientific journal for publication. There is a generally accepted format for the description. The journal editor forwards the paper to 2 or 3 other experts in different parts of the world for review. If they agree the species is new they recommend formal publication. When the name is finally in print it is usually accepted by the scientific community.


It is not good practice to base a description on one specimen. At least 3 specimens should be to hand. One of these should be retained as the holotype (the original specimen from which the species is described and named) to be properly preserved, catalogued and stored in a designated wet collection of a museum or other such suitable institution where it may be accessed by other researchers. The other specimens are referred to as paratypes.



Nudibranchs that are not yet described have an "sp." at the end of their name. For example. Platydoris sp. 1. The number pertains to the number of undescribed species in that family in a particular study, like ours.






MICHAEL SCHRO for allowing us use their paper.





<-- Here is an actual published paper on a newly described and named species.

Click on the paper to view...


Some of the basic information that should be included at the very

least is:

- A full description of the external anatomy and any known variations accompanied with photographs or coloured drawings.
- Description, together with drawings and or photographs of the dissected digestive and reproductive systems.
- Description, together with electron microphotographs of the jaws and radula if present.
- Known distribution.
- As much natural history as possible e.g. diet, spawn, development, behaviour etc.
- A discussion on how the new species fits into the genus and how it differs from similar species within the genus.
- The catalogue number and institute where the holotype is lodged.
- Acknowledgements and citing of all references.


Although not always the case many species are described today in the context of a review of the genus to which they belong.


Supplying all of the above information and having access to all the required literature and even specimens of previously described similar species is no easy task.


The literature is littered with incorrectly or poorly described species. Some holotypes are so poorly preserved as to be useless in comparing them to even the original descriptions and we are stuck with these problems forever. This makes it essential that the process is undertaken properly.


In choosing the specific epithet (or 2nd part of the name) there are certain rules and conventions, laid down in the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature, to be followed. It is usually good form to include in the description the etymology of the name so that it may be understood why it was chosen. Some authors will use a distinctive feature of the animal whilst others will honour colleagues and friends. Others have been quite whimsical in their choice and we can be generous by assuming that it most probably says something about their own personality.


There are also separate pages on related subjects:

- The Use of Common Names

- The Binomial System of Naming Species



Nudibranch webmaster Gary Cobb

All photographs and content © 2003-2024 Gary Cobb and contributing photographers.