Taxonomy Committee Terms of Reference

The Committee on Taxonomy maintains the official SMM list of marine mammal species and subspecies. The list is posted on the Society’s website.  The committee provides advice on taxonomic usage in response to inquiries from the members of the Society.

Taxonomy Committee Terms of Reference

The Taxonomy Committee is a standing committee of the Society for Marine Mammalogy whose mission is to keep abreast of the taxonomy of marine mammals worldwide, with the purpose of creating a standard classification and nomenclature. The Committee’s focus is on alpha taxonomy (describing and naming taxa) and beta taxonomy primarily at lower levels of the hierarchy (subspecies, species and genera).  The following Terms of Reference were developed by the SMM Taxonomy Committee. They were approved by the Committee on 11 June 2019 and submitted to the SMM Board of Governors on 18 September 2019 and approved on 2 October 2019.

The Role of the Taxonomy Committee

  1. To prepare a List of Recognized Species and Subspecies of Marine Mammals, for posting on the Society website.
  2. To update the List as new descriptions of species or subspecies or other taxonomic actions appear in the peer-reviewed technical literature, adhering to principles and procedures specified in the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature (Fourth Edition, 1999) and opinions and directions issued by the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature.
  3. On request by the Editor of Marine Mammal Science, to review submitted manuscripts or portions of submitted manuscripts dealing with formal descriptions of new taxa or other taxonomic actions.
  4. As requested, to provide advice to Members on questions relating to description of new taxa or other aspects of taxonomy.
  5. To carry out other duties as assigned by the President.

Standard Operating Procedures

  1. The Committee will consist of up to fifteen (15, including the chair) voting members at any time, one of whom is a student, always with an odd number of voting members. All Committee members, including the student member must be members of the Society.
  2. The Chair of the Committee is recommended by the President and approved by the elected officers of the Board of Governors, serves a two year term with no limit on reappointment.
  3. Committee members are recommended to the Board of Governors by the Committee chair and approved by the Board of Governors. Committee membership should be representative of the diversity of the Society membership and should comprise experts in the taxonomy of each major taxonomic group of marine mammals and a variety of fields of taxonomic research.
  4. The Editor of Marine Mammal Science shall be an ex-officio, non-voting member, of the Committee and be included in all Committee business (emails, in person meetings, etc.).
  5. The Chair will review voting member participation every year, communicate with members who have not sufficiently participated and determine whether replacements are warranted.
  6. The Chair may invite other Society members or individuals outside the Society to temporarily advise the Committee on specific issues within their field of expertise.
  1. The Committee will annually review relevant peer-reviewed publications that recommend new descriptions of marine mammal species or subspecies or other taxonomic actions and update the SMM taxonomy website with any necessary changes. The Committee may review a taxonomic proposal outside of the annual review period if it deems it necessary.
  2. Decisions concerning the content of, and updates to, the taxonomic list must be supported by a 2/3 majority of the voting Committee members.
  3. Members who have a dissenting view to a Committee decision may incorporate the view into the taxonomy website.
  4. A summary of the Committee discussion and decision for each reviewed taxonomic issue, including any dissenting views, will be prepared each year and posted on the SMM website.
  1. Communications between Committee members will primarily be by e-mail.
  2. The Chair will retain copies of email or postal communications among Committee members regarding updates to the List and other matters relating to committee business and taxonomic decisions or opinions and pass to the Secretary for inclusion in the Society’s archives upon completion of the Chair’s term. 

Duties and Responsibilities of a Member

Members must be active participants in the discussion and resolution of all items that come before the Committee. They must provide their best advice and evaluation on each taxonomic issue from an unbiased, scientific perspective.  They must provide their position on each proposed change the Committee considers and provide reason for their position, both for or against.