Content Author Object Flagger Flag Created Reason Resolved by Resolution
North American Elm Sawfly (Cimbex americanus) jonathan142 Wed, 13 May 2020 20:11:07 +0000

Spelling does not match US references (i.e. BugGuide)

Not Resolved


I'm not sure which one is correct -- americana vs. americanus is actually supposed to depend upon the gender of the genus name, and the same ending should be used throughout the genus. Bugguide uses ana for all 4 species it shows, which is at least consistent, but I'm seeing other sources that use nus for several of the species in the genus. Hopefully someone with more detailed knowledge will jump in here.

Posted by psweet over 1 year ago (Flag)

Part of the difficulty that I'm seeing is that, at present, -a is consistently used throughout US literature for American species whereas -us is used prominently throughout European literature for European species. Presumably, iNat should be using the names that occur in the literature, and the authors should find some sort of agreement for modern usage.

I'll loop in @skmonckton (as a top identifier and sawfly researcher) and @cotinis (as a BugGuide contributing editor of the Cimbex pages).

Posted by jonathan142 over 1 year ago (Flag)

Thanks for bringing me in on the conversation, but I am not a taxonomist, nor do I have any special knowledge of Cimbex. I just happened to have edited some of the Cimbex pages on BugGuide some time ago--it was surely editorial stuff, just creating them and adding basic information. I will, however, leave a query in the taxonomy forums there and see if anyone has any opinions. Incidentally, changing spelling of a name is very easy on BugGuide, since the web pages, "nodes", have numerical URL's and the taxonomic names are just labels associated with a node--change the label on the parent node, and all daughter nodes (images, for instance) have the new name associated automatically.
Anyway, the BugGuide discussion is at:
I cross-referenced this discussion there as well, so interested parties can come back here if they want.

Posted by cotinis over 1 year ago (Flag)

Hi all: the change from 'americana' to 'americanus' was intended as a correction to conform with the gender of the genus name Cimbex, as @psweet suggested. From what I can tell it was originally done by Taeger et al. in their 2010 World Catalog of Symphyta. North American entomologists have carried on using the previous spelling, I assume out of habit (and probably thanks in part to inertia from BugGuide). In any case BugGuide should not be used as a reference for valid taxonomy (e.g. Dolerus is still listed there under Dolerinae, despite that experts have considered that taxon to be a tribe under Selandriinae for a good while now). For sawflies, the best place to look is ECatSym (, the digital successor of the 2010 print catalog. Cimbex americanus is still listed there as the correct spelling. Being familiar with the works of the authors, I can tell you that they do not normally make such taxonomic changes without good justification.

As for whether this change is 'correct', I can't really say. I'll ask, because I'm curious myself. Under the Code, a name should be corrected when it is clear it was meant as an adjective, but in Leach's work describing this species, there's no indication of how the name is to be treated. I think it would be equally justifiable therefore to treat the name as a noun in apposition, which would not need correcting. Personally I would have thought that's the better option too, given it's the prevalent spelling. But like I said, I'll ask, because I assume they had a good reason!

Posted by skmonckton over 1 year ago (Flag)

@skmonckton, you could ask John Van Dyk (BugGuide administrator) to make you a contributing editor, then you could make those changes. The usual custom is to float changes in the taxonomy forum for a while first, so that others can comment. The only inertia in BugGuide is the interest of users in maintaining and editing different groups. Unlike iNaturalist, BugGuide does not use an external source of names--everything is set up manually, so taxonomy stays the way it initially set up until somebody gathers interest and consensus to change it.
Alternatively, I could makes some of those changes if you think they are pressing. Let me know.
Edit. I should add, too, that BugGuide's emphasis has always been on family, genus, and species-level taxonomy. Many editors have avoided assigning genera to subfamilies and, especially, tribes, because it can make it difficult to browse through images in a given family looking for an identification. (Nevertheless, some groups have had these levels added.) Especially in tribes or subfamilies with few genera included in them, it has been the custom there to simply leave out those levels of classification and just flatten things to family:genus:species. Again, this is to make browsing for identifications easier.

Posted by cotinis over 1 year ago (Flag)

Thanks @cotinis! I don't feel strongly about which taxonomy a given platform uses, which is why I haven't suggested any changes over on BugGuide. In any case I only meant to address @psweet's point about the three species at issue having the -us ending on BugGuide - which as you note is because no users have suggested otherwise! (Also, I agree: subfamilies and tribes can really make the Guide tricky to navigate!)

As far as Cimbex goes, it turns out the ICZN ruled years and years ago that the genus name should be treated as masculine. Very simply, the names were changed from americana, pacifica, and rubida, to americanus, pacificus, and rubidus to conform to the Code - which says that species names formed as Latin adjectives should agree in gender with the genus. I got an email back from Andreas Taeger saying they never liked the masculine forms of the names either, but that they changed them in the interest of adhering to the rules. Who knows. To me, it shouldn't make a difference what gender Cimbex has. My thinking is that names ought to be spelled the way they were intended, as long as they use the right symbols and alphabet.

But yes, if one wants to apply the Code in its strictest sense, then americanus, pacificus, and rubidus are in fact the correct spellings. Of course whether or not they catch on remains to be seen!

PS: Cimbex semidea is formed as a noun ("demi-god"), so no change there.

Posted by skmonckton over 1 year ago (Flag)

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