Four new Neotropical plant species in the hyperdiverse genus Solanum (Solanaceae), which includes plants as diverse as the deadly nightshade as well as the more palatable tomato have been published in the open access online-only journal PLoS ONE by Dr. Sandra Knapp of the Natural History Museum, London. Although several thousand new plant species are described each year, this paper represents a botanical pioneer: it is the first to be published in an online-only journal whilst adhering to the strict botanical code that sets out how new species can be named.
The naming of new taxa in plants is governed by the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature (ICBN), which has traditionally been thought to not allow publication of new names in anything other than print on paper. This article provides a solution to this conundrum by separating the printing process from the publisher and enabling the author to print their own copies and distribute them to relevant museums and institutions on the day of publication. As such, it is the first to effectively publish new plant names in an online-only journal while complying with the rules and recommendations of the ICBN. Because PLoS ONE is also an open-access journal, the article and the associated guidelines are freely available for the community to download and use as the 'type-specimen' for such a publication.
Dr Knapp is a leading plant taxonomist, author of numerous books and a world authority on Solanaceae, the nightshade family which includes potatoes and tomatoes. She is well acquainted with the Codes of Nomenclature, of which the ICBN is one (the others govern cultivated plant, animals and bacterial names).
"These codes are possibly the best and longest lasting example of voluntary adherence to standards in science; they have been in use since the early 19th Century, and although legalistic, are not legally binding", she notes.
Public Library of Science