Nomenclatural instability in the venomous snakes of theBothropscomplex: Implications in toxinology and public health

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Abstract

Since nomenclature is intended to reflect the evolutionary history of organisms, advances in our understanding of historical relationships may lead to changes in classification, and thus potentially in taxonomic instability. An unstable nomenclature for medically important animals like venomous snakes is of concern, and its implications in venom/antivenom research and snakebite treatment have been extensively discussed since the 90's. The taxonomy of the pitvipers of the Bothrops complex has been historically problematic and different genus-level rearrangements were proposed to rectify the long-standing paraphyly of the group. Here we review the toxinological literature on the Bothrops complex to estimate the impact of recent proposals of classification in non-systematic research. This assessment revealed moderate levels of nomenclatural instability in the last five years, and the recurrence of some practices discussed in previous studies regarding the use of classifications and the information provided about the origin of venom samples. We briefly comment on a few examples and the implications of different proposals of classifications for the Bothrops complex. The aim of this review is to contribute to the reduction of adverse effects of current taxonomic instability in a group of medical importance in the Americas.

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