As president of the International Union of Biological Sciences (IUBS), I welcome the suggestion by Stephen Garnett and Les Christidis that a single body should take overall responsibility for the taxonomy of all living organisms (Nature 546, 25–27; 2017). The primary aim would be to rationalize what constitutes a “distinct species”. This will complement biological nomenclature systems that are already in place at the IUBS.

I am confident that the IUBS could help to develop a consensus on a method of taxonomy that uses the latest knowledge and modern technology for all living organisms — across every scale of size and complexity.