It is time for a new type of type to facilitate naming the microbial world

M. Palmer, I. Sutcliffe, S. N. Venter, B. P. Hedlund*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)
35 Downloads (Pure)


Since January 1, 2001, the only acceptable nomenclatural type for species under the International Code of Nomenclature of Prokaryotes (ICNP) has been pure cultures. Here, we argue that this requirement is discordant with the more inclusive nature of nomenclatural types accepted under other codes of nomenclature and posit that the unique rigidity of the ICNP has failed to serve the broad research community and has stifled progress. This case is based on the axiom that many archaea and bacteria are interdependent in nature and therefore difficult, if not impossible, to grow, preserve, and distribute as pure cultures. As such, a large proportion of Earth's biodiversity cannot be named under the current system, which limits our ability to communicate about microbial diversity within and beyond the microbiology research community. Genome sequence data are now encouraged for valid publication of new taxa in microbial systematics journals, and metagenome-assembled genomes and single cell-amplified genomes are being generated rapidly from every biome on Earth. Thus, genome sequences are available for both cultivated and uncultivated microorganisms and can readily serve as a new category of nomenclatural type, allowing for a unified nomenclature for all archaea and bacteria, whether or not they are available as pure cultures. Ideally this would be under a single code of nomenclature but, as we review here, the newly established SeqCode will operate in parallel with the ICNP as a first step toward this goal.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100991
Number of pages9
JournalNew Microbes and New Infections
Early online date1 Jun 2022
Publication statusPublished - 2022


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