The Next Million Names for Archaea and Bacteria

Mark J. Pallen*, Andrea Telatin, Aharon Oren

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Latin binomials, popularised in the 18th century by the Swedish naturalist Linnaeus, have stood the test of time in providing a stable, clear, and memorable system of nomenclature across biology. However, relentless and ever-deeper exploration and analysis of the microbial world has created an urgent need for huge numbers of new names for Archaea and Bacteria. Manual creation of such names remains difficult and slow and typically relies on expert-driven nomenclatural quality control. Keen to ensure that the legacy of Linnaeus lives on in the age of microbial genomics and metagenomics, we propose an automated approach, employing combinatorial concatenation of roots from Latin and Greek to create linguistically correct names for genera and species that can be used off the shelf as needed. As proof of principle, we document over a million new names for Bacteria and Archaea. We are confident that our approach provides a road map for how to create new names for decades to come.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)289-298
Number of pages10
JournalTrends in Microbiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
M.J.P. is supported by the Quadram Institute Bioscience Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)-funded Strategic Program: Microbes in the Food Chain (project no. BB/R012504/1 ) and its constituent project BBS/E/F/000PR10351 (Theme 3, Microbial Communities in the Food Chain). A.T. gratefully acknowledges the support of BBSRC ; this research was funded by the BBSRC Institute Strategic Programme Gut Microbes and Health BB/R012490/1 and its constituent project BBS/E/F/000PR10353 .

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 The Author(s)


  • Candidatus
  • genome-based taxonomy
  • metagenome-assembled genomes
  • nomenclature


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