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Australian Mammalogy Australian Mammalogy Society
Journal of the Australian Mammal Society

What’s in a name? Selection of common names among new and revised species of Australian mammals, and the case of the sugar glider

Ross L. Goldingay A * , Stephen M. Jackson B C , John W. Winter D , Dan K. P. Harley E , Rohan J. Bilney F , Darren G. Quin A , Geoffrey C. Smith G , Brendan D. Taylor A and Rodney P. Kavanagh A
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Faculty of Science and Engineering, Southern Cross University, PO Box 157, Lismore, NSW 2480, Australia.

B Australian Museum Research Institute, 1 William Street, Sydney, NSW 2010, Australia.

C School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia.

D PO Box 1485, Atherton, Qld 4883, Australia.

E Zoos Victoria, Wildlife Conservation and Science Department, Healesville Sanctuary, Healesville, Vic. 3777, Australia.

F Forestry Corporation of NSW, P.O. Box 702, Eden, NSW 2551, Australia.

G Queensland Herbarium and Biodiversity Sciences, Department of Environment & Science, Brisbane Botanic Gardens, Toowong, Qld 4066, Australia.

* Correspondence to:

Handling Editor: Mark Eldridge

Australian Mammalogy 46, AM23017
Submitted: 24 April 2023  Accepted: 19 June 2023  Published: 5 July 2023

© 2024 The Author(s) (or their employer(s)). Published by CSIRO Publishing on behalf of the Australian Mammal Society.


The common names of species serve an important role in scientific and everyday communication, so well-constructed names should be easy to remember and convey important information about a species. The discovery of new species, or the revision and splitting of existing species, may lead to new or changed common names. We review new common names given to Australian mammal species described, or recognised, since the year 2000. We reference the principles adopted by the Australian Mammal Society in 1980, formulated to guide the selection of common names. Of 31 new species, 25 had common names that referenced their morphology, geographic location or ecosystem, one had an indigenous name and five involved eponyms (named after a person). Three of the eponyms reflected the animal’s specific name, one was given after consultation with indigenous cultural experts, and one was named after the collector of the specimen. We argue that the recommended common name for this latter species (Petaurus notatus) was inconsistent with the long-standing principles of the Australian Mammal Society for selecting common names, so we offer an alternative name, the inland sugar glider. Common names may be subservient to scientific names but they play an important role, and therefore, should be selected very carefully and be consistent with established principles.

Keywords: Coastal sugar glider, inland sugar glider, Krefft’s glider, Petaurus breviceps, Petaurus notatus, Petaurus ariel.


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