The classification of life forms into a hierarchical system (taxonomy) and the application of names to this hierarchy (nomenclature) is at a turning point in microbiology. The unprecedented availability of genome sequences means that a taxonomy can be built upon a comprehensive evolutionary framework, a longstanding goal of taxonomists. However, there is resistance to adopting a single framework to preserve taxonomic freedom, and ever increasing numbers of genomes derived from uncultured prokaryotes threaten to overwhelm current nomenclatural practices, which are based on characterised isolates. The challenge ahead then is to reach a consensus on the taxonomic framework and to adapt and scale the existing nomenclatural code, or create a new code, to systematically incorporate uncultured taxa into the chosen framework.
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