Stephen Garnett and Les Christidis propose that the International Union of Biological Sciences (IUBS) should establish a commission to co-ordinate the naming of species (Nature 546, 25–27; 2017). As a past president of the IUBS, I find this timely and appropriate. However, calls to restrict “freedom of taxonomic action” will not be enthusiastically adopted by all taxonomists, nor would a bottleneck resulting from a prolonged endorsement of new species be acceptable.
Establishing a body for defining new taxa is essential. Gentle persuasion and extensive funding will be needed if it is to be adopted by taxonomists and by groups such as the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Several bodies focus mainly on systems for naming, rather than on definitions of taxa; they include the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature and the International Commission on Bionomenclature. An IUBS commission that complements such bodies would in my view make conservation of endangered species and ecosystems markedly more effective.