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The Linnaean system of binomial nomenclature allows for easy communication of scientific writing among locations and languages, as common or vernacular names can vary, even from one town to the next.  In Newfoundland, for example, Common Loons have been known as: lew, loo, wobby, whobble, spotted loo, and more.  The closely-related Red-throated Loon also goes by these names.

Two species could also have the same vernacular name (e.g., Erithacus rubecula and Turdus migratorius are both commonly known as “robins” in Europe and North America respectively).  With the increased Anglicisation of scientific writing in the last century, English vernacular names are increasingly important in scientific communication.

Advances in molecular methods have improved our understanding of phylogeny (and consequently taxonomy) or birds, and allowed for the identification of cryptic species that would have otherwise remained undetected, or simply considered a separate population (e.g., Oceanodroma monteiroi).

The taxonomy of marine birds, particularly the Procellariiformes, has proven controversial, challenging, and in some cases, ambiguous.  The result has been competing taxonomic treatments of some groups.  National and international bodies have therefore established checklists for particular areas (AOU, BOU), or globally (Clements, IOC, BirdLife) so that researchers use consistent nomenclature.

Troublingly, more and more scientific publications adopt non-standard English vernacular or scientific names, tending towards elevating populations or subspecies to species status.  Researchers (and journal editors and reviewers) should adopt the recommendations of the region in which they work (e.g., NACC, SACC, BOURC), or in the absence of a regional scheme, recommended international names (IOC).

Taxonomy is a dynamic field, and as our understanding of species’ relationships to each other improves (through peer-reviewed manuscripts), things will undoubtedly change (or stay the same!).  So let’s not vault the chondrichthian and get carried away by our own opinions.

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