The ‘ii’s Have It: The Correct Scientific Name for Ricord’s Giant Anole

A dewlap photograph of Anolis ricordii from the western Dominican Republic.

If I had a nickel for each time I’ve been asked whether the correct spelling of the scientific name for Ricord’s Giant Anole is Anolis ricordii with two ‘i’s or Anolis ricordi with one ‘i,’ I’d have at least 15 cents.  Way back in 1837, Bibron described this species as Anolis ricordii, in honor of “M. Ricord.”  Why then, do some people use a single ‘i’ form that disagrees with the original description?  I attempt to answer this question in this post, while also establishing the fact that the double ‘ii’ spelling is correct.

The tendency for some modern authors to use the single ‘i’ appears to stem largely from the practices of the influential West Indian herpetologist Albert Schwartz and his colleagues, who consistently used the single ‘i’ for A. ricordi as well as other species names that previously included the double ‘ii’ (e.g., Cyclura ricordii).  The single ‘i’ form also appears in the widely used Reptile Database.

I’m not really sure what Schwartz’s problem with the double ‘i’ was, but perhaps he was  stickler for the rules of Latin; the fact that Ricord’s name ends in a ‘d’ rather than an ‘i’ means that Bibron’s use of the double ‘ii’ was technically an error.  Nevertheless, I believe the fact that the double ‘ii’ is in the original description means that it should stick.  Check out section 33.4 of the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature:

“33.4. Use of –i for –ii and vice versa, and other alternative spellings, in subsequent spellings of species-group names. The use of the genitive ending –i in a subsequent spelling of a species-group name that is a genitive based upon a personal name in which the correct original spelling ends with –ii, or vice versa, is deemed to be an incorrect subsequent spelling, even if the change in spelling is deliberate; the same rule applies to the endings –ae and –iae, –orum and –iorum, and –arum and –iarum.

Example. The subsequent use by Waterhouse of the spelling bennettii for the name established as Macropus bennetti Waterhouse, 1837 does not make the subsequent spelling an available name even if the act was intentional.”

The fact that Bibron may have been incorrect to use the ‘ii’ in the first place, makes interpretation of this section a bit confusing; does this mean that the original ‘ii’ is not the “correct original spelling” required under the code for retention of the ‘ii?’  I don’t think this is the case: the fact that Bibron used the double ‘ii,’ and intended to use it, means that ‘ii’ is the “correct original spelling.”  (Scholars of the code should feel free to chime in here if I’m misinterpreting.)

Current authorities on the West Indian herpetofauna are in agreement on this point.  Henderson and Powell use the double ‘ii’ in their most recent publications.  Blair Hedges also uses the double ‘ii’ on his Caribherp pages.  The take home message here is simple: stop using the single ‘i’ spelling Anolis ricordi.  As for other anole names that end in an ‘i’ or and ‘ii,’ my advice is that you consult Henderson and Powell, the Caribherp database, or comparable recent compendia for mainland taxa for the correct spelling.  We should probably also lobby for a correction on the Reptile Database

About Rich Glor

Assistant Professor of Biology at the University of Rochester and longtime anole enthusiast.
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3 Responses to The ‘ii’s Have It: The Correct Scientific Name for Ricord’s Giant Anole

  1. Robert Powell says:

    See also Anolis maynardii and Ameiva maynardii. Bibron wasn’t alone in using the double-i ending. Garman apparently used (misused) it as well.

  2. Rich Glor says:

    @Bob – Remember when we dealt with this issue in our CAAR account for C. ricordii?

  3. Robert Powell says:

    I do remember — and still deal with it pretty regularly. For whatever reason, any number of people simply refuse to change what they’ve been doing for years. Then again, I guess that’s pretty standard for a bunch of stubborn herpetologists…

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