Field of Science

Completely Frivolous Taxonomy Quiz

For no good reason, here's a set of trivia questions about biological taxonomy and nomenclature. Excuse the possible zoological bias - I am a zoologist, after all. How many can you answer? They start off easy, but (hopefully) they get trickier.

1. Current rank-based taxonomy is based on seven primary ranks. Which two were not used by Linnaeus?

2. What are the five codes of biological nomenclature currently in action?

3. Name one group of organisms not governed by any of these five codes.

4. What is the earliest publication using binomial nomenclature to be currently recognised by the ICZN?

5. When and what was the earliest formal zoological nomenclatural code proposed? What was the earliest botanical code?

6. What do the letters 'VP' and 'AL' mean as part of a bacterial name?

7. Kathablepharis and Katablepharis are different spellings for the name of the same organism. Each is the one spelling that must be used, while the other spelling is invalid. Explain.

8. The name Oedicnemidae was published by Gray in 1840. The name Burhinidae was published by Mathews in 1912. Both refer to the same family, for which the valid name is Burhinidae. Why?

9. If two or more taxa have the same name, and fall under the scope of the same code, then their names are homonyms, and only one can be valid. Pupa affinis Rossmaessler 1839, Pupa affinis Aradas & Maggione 1843 and Pupa affinis (Adams 1855) are all names for animals, but they are not considered homonyms. How is this possible?

Picture credits (from top to bottom): Tweedle Dum from Alice Through the Looking Glass, via here.

Satan in Hell from L'Inferno, via here.

The Ship of Fools by Hieronymus Bosch, via here.


  1. I swear I will not cheat.

    1. Phylum/Division and Family

    2. International Code of Zoological Nomenclature, International Code of Botanical Nomenclature, International Code of Nomenclature of Bacteria, International Code of Virus Classification and Nomenclature, and International Code of Nomenclature of Cultivated Plants (with number six coming along any year now ... hopefully....)

    3. Umm ... stem-biotes?

    4. It's that spider one ... dammit ... Aranae something.

    5. Réglés de nomenclature zoologique or something -- not sure of the date ... and the Strickland Code for botanical?

    6. Errr ... "very pretty" and "always late"?

    7. I'm guessing that Kathablepharis/Katablepharis is a protist genus covered by both the ICZN and the ICBN.

    9. (You know all this but you don't know how to count? ;] )
    Two possibilities. One is that Oedicnemidae is a nomen rejectum, but I'm going to guess, instead, that another family-group taxon typified by Burhinus was named before Oedicnemidae (Burhinoidea, Burhininae, Burhinini, or Burhinina), which gives Burhinidae precedence by ICZN rules.

    8. Two might be nomina nuda, but that seems like cheating. So I'm going to guess that each one was named under a different genus, and that the genera are all homonyms but not the species. I'm pretty sure I recently read a portion in the ICZN which states that species are only homonyms if placed in the same genus.

  2. Ha - I switched the order of 8 and 9 but forgot to change the numbering :-).

  3. (I figured as much.)

    Thanks for an interesting quiz, BTW. I looked up some of the ones I missed, but I'm still not sure about #3. (I mean, they don't cover stem-biotes, but that's only because have no direct knowledge of any.) If I can have a second guess: hypothetical organisms? (Well, I guess that's what stem-biotes are....)

  4. 3. Name one group of organisms not governed by any of these five codes.

    Ha! I know the answer. It's 'People who prefer to use phylogenetic nomenclature'.

  5. ...and yes, I know that what I wrote isn't strictly true. But I couldn't resist...

    BTW; CoO is an excellent blog, if I may take this opportunity to say so.

  6. The spider book is Aranei Svecici. It was published in 1757 but for purposes of priority the ICZN deems it (and the 10th ed. of the Systema Naturae) to have been published on 1 Jan. 1758.

  7. Ha! I know the answer. It's 'People who prefer to use phylogenetic nomenclature'.


    Actually, this makes me reconsider the wording of the question. Arguably no groups of organisms are governed by these codes. Instead, these codes govern the names of groups of organisms. (An exception might be made for the ICVCN, the only one of these which also regulates taxonomy, but that depends on whether or not you consider viruses organisms.)

  8. I have described new species, but I don't really consider myself a taxonomist & I am not good with the ICZN. I hope you will post the answers.

  9. 3. Prions aren't strictly organisms, I suppose. Do the Bacteria people presume to codify Archaea?


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