The problem of naming commercial seaweeds

  • John J. BoltonEmail author
Seaweed For Health Conference, Galway


Although there are different naming systems for economic seaweeds, including local vernacular, legal, and institutional names, there is a general understanding that naming systems are underpinned by correct scientific taxonomy and nomenclature. The molecular revolution in taxonomy, causing huge changes in delimitation of taxa, together with a perceived inability of scientific taxonomy and nomenclature to keep up with these changes is a major problem. For example, it is suggested that the majority of marine natural products from seaweeds are described in the scientific literature linked to taxonomically incorrect names. The different naming systems are here described and compared, with examples showing mismatches between up-to-date scientific taxonomy, nomenclature, and current commercial and legal naming practices. It is considered feasible that a consensus will soon be reached on taxonomic systems for commercially important groups, and scientific names of taxa updated to incorporate this new information. It is essential that names from other nomenclatural systems be increasingly underpinned by scientific, evolutionarily-based taxonomy. The critical communication role played by the website as a highly reliable and up-to-date source of nomenclatural information is highlighted, as is the need for naming of material with commercial potential to be backed up by DNA barcoding in the future, once the taxonomy of economically important groups has been thoroughly investigated.


Nomenclature Marine natural products Legal Marine algae Taxonomy Industry Barcoding 



This contribution was funded by National Research Foundation grant number: 111719.

Many thanks to the organizers of the inaugural Seaweeds for Health conference in Galway, Ireland, for inviting me to present a Keynote address and allowing me to indulge my interest in names.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesUniversity of Cape TownRondeboschSouth Africa

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