SWCHR Philosophy on Naming Species

02 Jun 2009

Since the inception of the Southwestern Center for Herpetological Research (SWCHR) we had essentially with a few exceptions followed Scientific and Standard English Names of Amphibians and Reptiles of North America North of Mexico with Comments Regarding Confidence in Our Understanding, 6th Edition, 2008 by Brian I. Crother, et al when listing species in any of the various sections of the SWCHR web site other than the discussion forums. In those cases where we did not agree with the names adopted by Crother, et al, we have then followed the Standard Common and Current Scientific Names for North American Amphibians, Turtles, Reptiles, and Crocodilians, 7th Edition (2009) by Joseph T. Collins and Travis W. Taggart. Unfortunately, what we soon began seeing what appeared to be two separate self-proclaimed “official” lists competing against each other in a race to be the first to adopt taxonomic changes and new names, thus destabilizing the taxonomy of various species and creating confusion and frustration among both the herpetological community and the general public.

We do not feel that stability (real or imagined) should be sacrificed every time a new paper is published and do believe that proposed changes should be explored using multiple methodologies before they are accepted. Some groups (like Pantherophis) are obviously a “work in progress” and even more deserving of a conservative approach until the dust settles.

The Southwestern Center for Herpetological Research has therefore created a standing Committee on Common and Scientific Names to review and determine which common and scientific names we will recognize and adopt for use on the SWCHR web site. This committee will only deal with those species native to the six southwestern states covered by SWCHR. This committee’s work will be a lengthy and on-going project, the results of which will gradually begin to appear in our various species listing.

The SWCHR Committee on Standard and Scientific Names is composed of Tom Lott (Committee Chair), Terry Cox, and Riley J. Campbell.

Gerald Keown
Southwestern Center for Herpetological Research