Valid Publication of New Names or New Combinations: Making Use of the Validation Lists

J.P. Euzéby (SBSV) & B.J. Tindall (DSMZ)

J. P. Euzéby is Lists Editor of the IJSEM, Société de Bactériologie Systématique et Vétérinaire (SBSV) , Blaganac, France; and B. J. Tindall is Vice Chairman of the Judicial Commission, DSMZ-Deutsche Sammlung von Mikroorganismen und Zellkulturen GmbH, Inhoffenstrasse 7B, D-38124 Braunschweig, Germany.


Reprinted with permission from the authors and from the American Society for Microbiology (ASM News, June 2004, pp. 258-259).

Original publication:

EUZÉBY (J.P.) and TINDALL (B.J.): Valid publication of new names or new combinations: making use of the Validation Lists. ASM News, 2004, 70, 258-259.


It is now nearly 25 years since radical changes took place in prokaryote nomenclature, leading to the creation of an official indexing or registration system (valid publication) for the names of prokaryote taxa from subspecies up to, and including, class. In the same period, bacteriologists have become aware of the large diversity of taxa which remain to be described. The introduction of a variety of modern methods over the past 50 years now make it comparatively easy for scientists without training in systematics to approach the task of describing new taxa. We believe it is timely to draw the attention of the bacteriological community to some points which may not be evident to all.

The Bacteriological Code (1990 revision), together with changes approved and published by the International Committee on Systematics of Prokaryotes (formerly the International Committee on Systematics of Bacteria), is the cornerstone of bacterial nomenclature. It states that the name of a new taxon, or a new combination for an existing taxon, is validly published if one of the following criteria is met: (i) the name is cited in the Approved Lists of Bacterial Names; (ii) the name is published in papers in the International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology (IJSEM), formerly the International Journal of Systematic Bacteriology (IJSB), and conforms to requirements laid down in the Bacteriological Code; and (iii) the name is validly published by announcement in a Validation List.

Validation Lists are lists published in the IJSB/IJSEM, serving as a mechanism for validly publishing bacterial names which have been effectively published elsewhere. Due to the fact that more than 330 names have been effectively published outside the IJSB/IJSEM but not yet validly published, we want to draw attention to the fact that it is also possible to validly publish a name by including it in a Validation List.

The name must be effectively published. Effective publication is effected by making generally available printed material (scientific periodicals or books) for the purpose of providing a permanent record. No other kind of publication is accepted as effective, nor are the following: (i) communications of new names or new combinations at a meeting, in minutes of a meeting, or in abstracts of papers presented at meetings; (ii) placing of names in collections or in listings or catalogues of collections; (iii) distribution of microfilm, microcards, or electronic files available on the Internet; (iv) reports in ephemeral publications, newsletters, newspapers, or nonscientific periodicals or books; and (v) inclusion of a name in a published patent application or issued patents.

When a name of a new taxon is published in a work written in a language unfamiliar to the majority of workers in bacteriology, it is recommended that the author(s) include in the effective publication a description in English.

The name must conform to requirements laid down in the Bacteriological Code. (i) Paying attention to the "protologue." The format and content of the descriptions of taxa have been standardized ("protologue") from January 2001, based on widely accepted practice over the past 20 years. (a) The new name or new combination should be clearly stated and indicated as such (i.e., fam. nov., gen. nov., sp. nov., comb. nov., etc.), in order to make the intention of the author(s) to create a new name unambiguous. (b) The derivation (etymology) of a new name (and if necessary of a new combination) must be given. (c) The properties of the taxon being described must be given directly after (a) and (b). This may include reference to tables or figures in the same publication, or reference to previously effectively published work. (d) All information contained in (c) should be accessible.

(ii) Designation of the type. The nomenclatural type of the taxon must be designated. Types of the various taxonomic categories can be summarized as follows: class and subclass: one of the contained orders; order, suborder, family, subfamily, tribe, and subtribe: genus on whose name the name of the higher taxon is based; genus and subgenus: designated species; and species and subspecies (new names or new combinations): designated type strain.

In the case of species or subspecies, the culture collection numbers of at least two publicly accessible service collections in different countries where a subculture of the type strain has been deposited must be indicated. The designations allotted to the strain by the culture collections should be quoted in the published description.

Patent strains may serve as type strains. Patent strains must be clearly identified as such at the time of publication. If the patent is not yet awarded or not laid open, the publication of a name and the description has to be deferred until the patent is awarded or subcultures become available. The use of patent strains is currently being debated, since differences between U.S. patent law and the Budapest Treaty mean that, while access to a strain cited in a U.S. patent is comparatively easy, access to strains deposited under the Budapest Treaty may be significantly more difficult.

It should be emphasized that the International Committee on Systematics of Prokaryotes (ICSP) and its Judicial Commission introduced these rules in order to counter the undesirable trend whereby unreasonable restrictions were placed on the strains, or where access was being denied. It should be noted that some exceptions may be made, particularly in cases where only a limited number of collections have access to certain technical facilities (e.g., extreme barophiles or organisms of Risk Group 3). The deposit of strains in at least two different collections also ensures a system whereby type material is stored in at least two different global locations, ensuring the safe storage of this material. These rules are constantly under review and are intended to uphold an unwritten principle of securing access to type material for furthering the goals of prokaryote systematics.

(iii) Announcement in a Validation List must be requested. Announcement in a Validation List is primarily the responsibility of the author(s) of the new names or new combinations. However, other individuals may also submit a new name or new combination for valid publication, provided it conforms to the rules of the Code. Scientists wishing to have new names and/or combinations included in a list should send the pertinent reprint or a photocopy or a PDF file thereof to the IJSEM Editorial Office, Microbiology Society; e-mail, ijsem@sgm.ac.uk; tel. or to the Lists Editors .

Starting in August 2002, it is also a requirement of the IJSEM and the ICSP that authors of new species, new subspecies, and new combinations provide evidence that types are deposited in at least two recognized culture collections in two different countries (i.e., documents certifying deposition and availability of type strains). New names and/or combinations will not be cited in Validation Lists until such documentation has been received by the Lists Editor.

It is important to note that some of the above requirements (etymology, or designation of the type, or citation of culture collections accession numbers) may be provided on request at the time of valid publication in the Validation Lists.

Many bacteriologists do not realize that prokaryote systematics has unique and comprehensive access to the information on names, the literature associated with them, type strains, and the location of these strains, something which is the envy of those who wish to implement similar systems in botany or zoology. In paying attention to the workings and purpose of the Bacteriological Code, as well as making full use of mechanisms provided by the Validation Lists, it is hoped that this situation will be maintained. As a result, prokaryotic systematics may continue its role in leading the way in presenting accurate and comprehensive information to its end users.