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Lists of European species of amphibians and reptiles: will we soon be reaching "stability"?

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Zoologists at the end of our century are faced with a strong demand from "society" for "final and definitive" lists of taxon names: such lists are requested in particular by administrations and users of "official lists" of species. This has entailed, even among some professional taxonomists, a strong movement in favour of artificial stability of taxon names and of a replacement of the basic rule of the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature, the rule of priority, by a so-called "rule of common usage". The aim of this paper is to show, taking the example of European anuran amphibians, that this way of posing the question is wrong. The major factor of change in taxon names in zoology is taxonomic research, not nomenclatural grooming. Contrary to what is often believed, even in "well-known" regions like Europe, numerous new species have recently been discovered, in part through the use of new research techniques (electrophoresis, bioacoustics, etc.), but also as a result of better exploration of natural populations: the misleading idea that "the European fauna is well known" has acted as a brake against recognition of new taxa when these were discovered in the field. Name changes due to the mere application of nomenclatural rules are much less numerous than those due to the progress of taxonomic research, and they would be even much less common if zoologists and editors paid more attention to the international rules of nomenclature. We are still far from reaching the "holy grail" of "final lists" of animal faunae, even in Europe, and, rather than trying to comply with this request from "society", zoologists should explain why this goal will not be reached soon, and that the only way to accelerate the movement towards it would be the creation of numerous positions of professional zoologists and the increase of funds afforded to basic zoological research in Europe.

Affiliations: 1: Laboratoire des Reptiles et Amphibiens, Muséum national d'Histoire naturelle, 25 rue Cuvier, 75005 Paris, France


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