An anonymous reader share an article: In 1937, a brown eyeless beetle was discovered in some caves in Slovenia. There was nothing exceptional about the new species, except for one characteristic. Its discoverer decided to name it after Adolf Hitler. Anophthalmus hitleri sounds unpleasant to modern ears. It’s not the only one either. Many species names recall individuals or ideas that offend: the butterfly Hypopta mussolinii, for example, while several hundred plant species have names based on the word caffra, derived from a racial slur formerly used in Africa . Likewise, Hibbertia, a genus of flowering plants, honors George Hibbert, an English slave owner.
As a result, many scientists are pushing for changes to the international system for assigning official scientific names to plants and animals, to allow for the removal and substitution of old names if they are deemed objectionable. Current taxonomic regulations, which do not allow such changes, need to be changed, they say. Other scientists disagree. Arguing over names that some find unacceptable while looking for alternatives would be a waste of time and create confusion. Species names should remain inviolable once they have been approved by taxonomists, they argue, and changes should only be permitted if a designation error has been made or a previous designation turns out to have been neglected.
The conflict now threatens to become a major international conflict. “People have very, very strong opinions one way or the other,” said botanist Sandra Knapp, of the Natural History Museum in London. “There have been a number of outcries about this, but we need to discuss topics like this. We can’t avoid them.” As a result, Knapp organized a discussion before the vote on the issue takes place at the next International Botanical Congress, which will be held in Madrid in July 2024. A motion presented by a group of botanists calls for the creation of a committee. with the power to judge whether scientific names of plants that are now considered unacceptable should be removed or changed.