COSEWIC guidelines for naming wildlife species

Approved by COSEWIC in November 2018

Introduction

This document provides guidance for naming COSEWIC wildlife species. COSEWIC assigns status designations to these intra-specific entities, but they often do not have widely-recognized common names or population (designatable unit) names. Thus, there is sometimes a need to invent common names.

The first part of this document presents a set of guidelines to avoid lengthy discussion time at status assessment meetings, and to help reduce confusion of the public and scientists as to whether a wildlife species, subspecies, variety or population (designatable unit) has been assessed by COSEWIC. These guidelines should apply equally to English and French names.

The second part of this document provides the sources that COSEWIC uses when determining the appropriate scientific and common names to assign to wildlife species on its lists. Because there is often more than one taxonomic classification system for naming wildlife species, it is important to document the particular system that is used for each of the taxonomic groups reviewed and assessed by COSEWIC.

Note that COSEWIC adopted the following rule for capitalization of common names in English: For all taxonomic groups, the first letter in each word of the common name should be capitalized. For French common names, use lower case, except for bird names: the first letter should be capitalized for the first word of the name, any proper nouns, and after specific qualifiers (e.g., “Heron” in “Grand Heron”).

Part I. Guidelines for naming wildlife species, subspecies, varieties, and populations (designatable units)

A. Every wildlife species on COSEWIC’s record of assessment results should have a unique common name. Use accepted common name(s) for wildlife species, subspecies, varieties and populations (designatable units). Invent common names when they do not exist using protocols (where available) that are specific to the taxonomic group under consideration. Document methods and sources for arriving at invented names. Scientific names for subspecies or varieties may be included as part of the common name by converting scientific name to common language when possible (again using standard protocols where available).
  • when more than one intra-specific entity is designated (e.g., three subspecies, two populations (designatable units) of a subspecies), use a parallel naming structure, such as: Grizzly Bear (Prairie population) and Grizzly Bear (Northwestern population);
  • the word “population” should never be used to describe a subspecies or variety; and
  • when using the subspecies or variety portion of scientific name in the common name--the word “subspecies” or “variety” must always appear;
  • refer to Part II of this document for a list of sources for common and scientific names.

Example 1:
Phrynosoma douglassii douglassii is a subspecies of the Short-horned Lizard. Its accepted common name is the Pygmy Short-horned Lizard. Another possibility for the common name is:
Short-horned Lizard Douglas’ subspecies

B. Population (designatable unit) names identify all partial-range designations of wildlife species, subspecies and varieties. Populations (designatable units) must be identified with a geographic descriptor in parentheses (e.g., a COSEWIC Ecological Area). The word “population” must appear in the parentheses.

Example 2:
Icteria virens auricollis is one subspecies of the Yellow-breasted Chat. Two populations of this subspecies are listed by COSEWIC (in addition to a separate listing of the other subspecies). The Prairie population of the auricollis subspecies is used in the example below with two alternative common names:

Western Yellow-breasted Chat (Prairie population) …”western” refers to the auricollis subspecies
Yellow-breasted Chat auricollis subspecies (Prairie population)

C. Regarding the scientific name for a subspecies that has been designated by COSEWIC: If only one subspecies occurs in Canada, then it is acceptable to omit the subspecies name. If more than one subspecies has (or had) its range in Canada, then the subspecies name must be included in the scientific name. The same would apply for varieties.

Example 3:
Lottia alveus, the Eelgrass Limpet, once occurred on both the east and west coasts of Canada. Now it occurs only on the west coast. The east coast subspecies has been designated by COSEWIC (extinct) and the scientific name should be written as the full trinomial: Lottia alveus alveus.

Example 4:
Only one subspecies of Acris crepitans, the Northern Cricket Frog, occurs in Canada. This entity may be listed by COSEWIC with or without the subspecies name, blanchardi.

D. A COSEWIC entity may be referenced by either a common name or scientific name, while maintaining consistency throughout report. The population (designatable unit) name always must be included when partial-range entities are designated.
E. Accepted scientific naming should be used for wildlife species assessed by COSEWIC and any terms used in conjunction with the scientific name such as “var.”, “ssp.” etc. should be used as accepted in the international code for naming of wildlife species.

Example 5:
Rougheye Rockfish type I, Sebastes sp. type I
Rougheye Rockfish type II, Sebastes sp. type II

Example 6:
Paxton Lake Limnetic Stickleback
Paxton Lake Benthic Stickleback

Figure 1. Suggested name structure for COSEWIC listed entities, with optional and required components indicated. Note that very few names will include all optional components. A COSEWIC species name consists of three main parts: common name, scientific name and population name. Common names should include either a prefix or suffix to provide a more precise description of the subspecies or variety that has been designated. A population name is used when a biological species, subspecies or variety has been designated only in a portion of its Canadian range. For these partial-range designations, population names are essential, but should not otherwise be used. Either the common name or scientific name may be used alone (in conjunction with a population name, where appropriate), although more information is conveyed when both are used together. Refer to guidelines A-D in the text for more details and other examples.

Suggested name structure for COSEWIC listed entities, with optional and required components. Note that very few names will include all optional components.A COSEWIC species name consists of three main parts: common name, scientific name and population name. Common names must include the common name base and include either a prefix or suffix to provide a more precise description of the subspecies or variety that has been designated; refer to Guideline A. Scientific name must include genus and species while the subspecies is optional if only 1 subspecies occur in Canada; refer to Guideline C. A population name is used when a biological species, subspecies or variety has been designated only in a portion of its Canadian range. For these partial-range designations, population names are essential, but should not otherwise be used; refer to Guideline B. Example. Western Yellow-breasted Chat auricollis subspecies, Icteria virens auricollis, Prairie population.

Part II Scientific Authority for common names of wildlife species and capitalization rules

Sources used by COSEWIC for determining the appropriate common names and scientific names for wildlife species. The list is organized according to taxonomic group.

Note that COSEWIC adopted the following rule for capitalization of common names: For English common names, the first letter in each word of the common name should be capitalized. For French common names, use lower case, except for bird names: the first letter should be capitalized for the first word of the name, any proper nouns, and after specific qualifiers (e.g., “Heron” in “Grand Heron”).

Taxonomic group Authority for naming wildlife species
  English French
Amphibians Crother, B.I. 2017. Scientific and standard English names of amphibians and reptiles of North America north of Mexico, with comments regarding confidence in our understanding. 8th Edition. Society of the Study of Amphibians Reptiles (SSAR) Herpetological Circular No. 43. Green, D.M. (ed.). 2012. Noms français standardisés des amphibiens et des reptiles d’Amérique du Nord au nord du Méxique. SSAR Herpetological Circulars 40. 63 pp.
Arthropods
  1. Spiders: World Spider Catalog 2014. World Spider Catalog, version 15.5. Natural History Museum, Bern.
  2. Mayflies: McCafferty, P., Jacobus, L. M. 2014. North America Mayfly Species List. Mayfly Central, Purdue University.
  3. Dragonflies and damselflies: Abbott, J. C. 2015. Odonata Central: An online resource for the distribution and identification of Odonata.
  4. Stoneflies: DeWalt, R. E., Maehr, M. D., Neu-Becker, U., Stueber, G. 2013. Plecoptera Species File Online, version 5.0/5.0.
  5. Grasshoppers and relatives:
  6. Lacewings: Oswald, J. D. (Ed.). 2014. Lacewing Digital Library. Department of Entomology, Texas A&M University
  7. Beetles: Bousquet, Y., Bouchard, P., Davies, A. E., Sikes, D. S. 2013. Checklist of beetles (coleoptera) of Canada and Alaska, second edition. Pensoft Series Faunistica No 109: 402 pp.
  8. Ants: Bolton, B. 2014. New general catalogue of the ants of the world, and synopsis of taxonomic publications on Formicidae.
  9. Bees: Sheffield, C. 2015. General status of bees in Canada, prepared for the program on the general status of species in Canada.
  10. Yellowjacket wasps: Buck, M., Marshall, S. A., Cheung, D. K. B. 2008. Identification Atlas of the Vespidae (Hymenoptera, Aculeata) of the northeastern Nearctic region. Canadian Journal of Arthropod Identification 5: 492 pp.
  11. Caddisflies: Morse, J. C. (Ed.). 2014. Trichoptera World Checklist. Clemson University Arthropod Collection.
  12. Moths and butterflies: Pohl, G. R., Patterson, B., Pelham, J. P. 2016. Annotated taxonomic checklist of the Lepidoptera of North America, North of Mexico. ResearchGate Working Paper: 766 pp.
  13. Scorpionflies: Penny, N. D. 2005. World Checklist of Extant Mecoptera Species.
  14. California Academy of Sciences.
  15. Black flies: Adler, P. H., Crosskey, R. W. 2014. World blackflies (Diptera: Simuliidae): a comprehensive revision of the taxonomic and geographical inventory. Clemson University: 122 pp.
  16. Mosquitoes: Gaffigan, T. V., Wilkerson, R. C., Pecor, J. E., Stoffer, J. A., Anderson, T. 2015. Systematic Catalog of Culicidae. Walter Reed Biosystematics Unit.
  17. Horse flies:
  18. Bee flies: Evenhuis, N. L., Greathead, D. J. 2003. World catalog of bee flies (Diptera: Bombyliidae) Bishop Museum, Hawaii.
  19. Flower flies:
    • Miranda, G. F. G., Young, A. D., Locke, M. M., Marshall, S. A., Skevington, J. H., Thompson, F. C. 2013. Key to the genera of nearctic Syrphidae. Canadian Journal of Arthropod Indentification 23: 351 pp.
    • Locke, M. M., Skevington, J. H. 2013. Revision of Nearctic Dasysyrphus Enderlein (Diptera: Syrphidae). Zootaxa 3660: 80 pp.
    • Vockeroth, J. R. 1992. The Insects and Arachnids of Canada, Part 18: The Flower Flies of the Subfamily Syrphinae of Canada, Alaska, and Greenland (Diptera: Syrphidae). Centre for Land and Biological Resources Research, Agriculture Canada, Government of Canada: 456 pp.
    • Pape, T., Thompson, F. C. (Eds.). 2013. Systema Dipterorum
    • Decapods: WoRMS Editorial Board. 2015. World Register of Marine Species.
Expertise of Remi Hebert (member of the Arthropods Specialist Subcommittee)
Birds American Ornithological Society. 2018. Checklist of North and Middle American Birds.
  1. Commission internationale des noms français des oiseaux. 1993. Noms français des oiseaux du monde, 1ère éd. Editions MultiMondes, Sainte-Foy, Québec. Base de Données Cinfo.
  2. Liste de la faune vertébrée du Québec
Freshwater Fishes Lawrence M. Page, Héctor Espinosa-Pérez, Lloyd T. Findley, Carter R. Gilbert, Robert N. Lea, Nicholas E. Mandrak, Richard L. Mayden, and Joseph S. Nelson. 2013. Common and scientific names of fishes from the United States, Canada, and Mexico. 7th edition. American Fisheries Society, Special Publication 34. Lawrence M. Page, Héctor Espinosa-Pérez, Lloyd T. Findley, Carter R. Gilbert, Robert N. Lea, Nicholas E. Mandrak, Richard L. Mayden, and Joseph S. Nelson. 2013. Common and scientific names of fishes from the United States, Canada, and Mexico. 7th edition. American Fisheries Society, Special Publication 34.
Lichens
  1. Brodo, I.M., S.D. Sharnoff and S. Sharnoff. 2001. Lichens of North America. Yale University Press, New Haven, Connecticut;
  2. Various other sources as necessary.
Expertise of Louis Panneton of the Montreal Translation Bureau.
Marine Fishes Lawrence M. Page, Héctor Espinosa-Pérez, Lloyd T. Findley, Carter R. Gilbert, Robert N. Lea, Nicholas E. Mandrak, Richard L. Mayden, and Joseph S. Nelson. 2013. Common and scientific names of fishes from the United States, Canada, and Mexico. 7th edition. American Fisheries Society, Special Publication 34.
  1. Lawrence M. Page, Héctor Espinosa-Pérez, Lloyd T. Findley, Carter R. Gilbert, Robert N. Lea, Nicholas E. Mandrak, Richard L. Mayden, and Joseph S. Nelson. 2013. Common and scientific names of fishes from the United States, Canada, and Mexico. 7th edition. American Fisheries Society, Special Publication 34. (Note: names provided for species typically < 200 m depth)
  2. For French names not found in the Page et al. 2013, consult: Liste de la faune vertébrée du Québec
Marine Mammals
  1. Perrin, W.F., B. Würsig, B., and J.G.M. Thewissen, eds. 2009. Encyclopedia of Marine Mammals. Academic Press, San Diego, CA.
  2. Discretion of the Co-chairs.
Liste de la faune vertébrée du Québec
Molluscs
  1. Turgeon, D. D., J. F. Quinn, A. E. Bogan, E. V. Coan, F. G. Hochberg, W. G. Lyons, P. M. Mikkelsen, R. J. Neves, C. F. E. Roper, G. Rosenberg, B. Roth, A. Scheltema, F. G. Thompson, M. Vecchione, and J. D. Williams. 1998. Common and Scientific Names of Aquatic Invertebrates from the United States and Canada: mollusks. Second edition. American Fisheries Society Spec. Publ. No. 26 (includes freshwater, marine and terrestrial molluscs).
  2. Clarke, A.H. 1981. The Freshwater Molluscs of Canada. National Museum of Natural Sciences, National Museums of Canada. 446 pp.
Martel, André, J-M. Gagnon, M. Gosselin, A. Paquet et I. Picard. 2007. Liste des noms français révisés et des noms latins et anglais à jour des mulettes du Canada (Bivalvia: Familles: Margaritiféridés, Unionidés). Naturalist Canadian 131(2): 79-84
Mosses
  1. Scientific names: Anderson, L.E. 1990. A checklist of Sphagnum in North America north of Mexico. Bryologist 93:500-501; Anderson, L.E., H.A. Crum and W.R. Buck. 1990. List of mosses of North America north of Mexico. Bryologist 93:448-499.
  2. Common names: from Evansia (Parts 1-11, Vol. 6-11) or based on expertise of René Belland.
Expertise of Louis Panneton of the Montreal Translation Bureau.
Reptiles Crother, B.I. 2017. Scientific and standard English names of amphibians and reptiles of North America north of Mexico, with comments regarding confidence in our understanding. 8th Edition. Society of the Study of Amphibians Reptiles (SSAR) Herpetological Circular No. 43. Green, D.M. (ed.). 2012. Noms français standardisés des amphibiens et des reptiles d’Amérique du Nord au nord du Méxique. SSAR Herpetological Circulars 40. 63 pp.
Terrestrial Mammals Wilson, D.E., and D.M. Reeder (editors). 2005. Mammal Species of the World. A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (3rd ed), Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, MD. 2,142 pp. Discretion of the Co-chairs. Liste de la faune vertébrée du Québec
Vascular Plants
  1. VASCAN: Brouillet, L., F. Coursol, M. Favreau, M. Anions, P. Bélisle & P. Desmet. 2010+ VASCAN, the Database of Vascular Plants of Canada. (consulted on 2011-11-03)
  2. Wild Species Canada: The general status of species in Canada [only for common names of species. This data source only provides common names at the species level.
  3. Flora of North America [for up-to-date taxonomic treatments, if published]. Flora of North America Editorial Committee, eds. 1993+. Flora of North America North of Mexico. 12+ vols. New York and Oxford. Vol. 1, 1993; vol. 2, 1993; vol. 3, 1997; vol. 4, 2003; vol. 5, 2005; vol. 19, 2006; vol. 20, 2006; vol. 21, 2006; vol. 22, 2000; vol. 23, 2002; vol. 25, 2003; vol. 26, 2002.
  4. ITIS. Integrated Taxonomic Information System [for species not yet revised in FNA].
  5. The subcommittee may adopt a treatment in a current published scientific paper if it supercedes the FNA treatment or if an FNA treatment is not yet available.
Expertise of Louis Panneton of the Montreal Translation Bureau.

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The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) is an independent advisory panel to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada that meets twice a year to assess the status of wildlife species at risk of extinction. Members are wildlife biology experts from academia, government, non-governmental organizations and the private sector responsible for designating wildlife species in danger of disappearing from Canada.


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