NANFA-- common name criteria

Christopher Scharpf (
Mon, 12 Mar 2001 08:45:23 -0400

Curious as to what criteria or governing principles the American Fisheries
Society (AFS) uses to establish a fish's common name, I found the following list
in the AFS' 1991 guide:

* Colorful, romantic, fanciful, metaphorical, and otherwise distinctive and
original names are especially appropriate. (madtom, pumpkinseed, hogchoker,
Dolly Varden, etc.)

* American Indian or any other native names are welcome. (muskellunge,
mummichog, menhaden, etc.)

* Truly vernacular names that are widespread and in common use by the public are
to be retained whenever possible.

* Commonly employed names adopted from traditional English usage (e.g., cod,
pike, bass, perch, chub, minnow) are given considerable latitude in taxonomic
placement, especially with widely known species (e.g., white perch, striped
bass, mudminnow).

* Structural attributes, color, and color pattern are desirable sources of names
(salfin, giant, mottled, etc)

* Ecological characteristics are useful in making good names (reef, coral, lake,
riffle, mountain, etc.)

* Geographic distribution provides suitable adjectical modifiers (e..g, Coosa
darter, Roanoke hog sucker)

* Generic names may be employed as common names outright (e.g., gambusia,
tilapia) or in modified form (e.g., molly from Mollienesia). Such names should
be maintained even if the generic name is changed.

* No two species shall have the same approved name.

* Names shall not violate the tenets of good taste (hence, squawfish being
changed to pikeminnow).

There were other technical criteria, but these are the most important.

Christopher Scharpf

"The secret of life is to have a task....And the most important thing is -- it
must be something you cannot possibly do!"
Henry Moore, sculptor

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