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Illogical etymology and the curious case of Ceramium

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The etymology of names is regarded as an important component of taxonomic literature, but the derivation of names described in older works is often misinterpreted. The reasons for this are several-fold, including failing to consult the original publication, misinterpreting the describing author's intentions, or attempting to retrofit a name to accommodate the current circumscription of the taxon. An example of the latter is the name Ceramium Roth, derived from the Greek ceramion, meaning pitcher or vessel, but currently applied to a genus of red algae with no vessel-like structures. It is shown that the name was most likely derived from an earlier publication, wherein it was coined in reference to the reproductive structures in a red alga currently known as Gracilaria and unrelated to present-day Ceramium.


Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: School of Biological Sciences and Biotechnology, Murdoch University, Murdoch WA 6150; and Western Australian Herbarium, Dept. of Environment and Conservation, Locked Bag 104, Bentley Delivery Centre, WA 6983, Australia

Publication date: April 13, 2012

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