We present a rank-free phylogenetic nomenclature for 25 well-established ancient clades of living turtles. This is the first attempt to document fully the nomenclatural history of a clade with the intent of proposing a coherent nomenclatural system to replace the traditional rank-based nomenclature. Because of the imperative to retain connectivity to the literature for information retrieval, due consideration is given to balancing the desire to develop a consistent system against the desire to conserve traditional associations between names, taxa (i.e., clades), and characters. Novel issues and problems that emerged during this review include: the unclear name/clade association of traditional names; the creation of synonymy lists from which to choose a name; difficulties associated with selecting a single criterion for choosing among multiple ‘subjectively synonymous’ names; identifying authorship for a converted traditional name; and the potential loss of nomenclatural information due to ‘functional homonyms.’ This work may provide a useful road map to those intent on converting their traditional rank-based nomenclatures to explicitly phylogenetic nomenclatures under the precepts of the PhyloCode.

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