species authorities

Jim Croft jrc at ANBG.GOV.AU
Tue Aug 10 23:36:00 CDT 1993


The response to your question below is pragmatic and perhaps a little
outrageous.  I have copied it to TAXACOM to see how other people feel
about author names.  Personally, I feel the world would be a gentler,
kinder place without them (author names, but probably people too).

> Richard is producing a list of taxa for one of his MDBC reports.
> He needs to link species authorities to the binomials.  Could he
> refer to CAVP (or APNI) as the overall authority list?


Why do you need authors?  The report is presumably not a taxonomic work.
Authors are only needed to distinguish homonyms, which are a relatively
rare occurrence. (oh, and I forgot, also for the gratuitious glorification
of erudite and distinguished botanists)

Unfortunately there is a pretentious tendency to use authors in general
and ecological papers in the belief that it lends some sort of
scientific credibility to the work.  For nearly all uses of a botanical
names they are totally unnecessary.  Who cares who described Eucalyptus
baxteri first and who later moved it to where it is today?  It is the
fact that you are talking about Ecalyptus baxteri that is important.
If scientific veracity is your goal, cite a voucher specimen rather than
an author.

Equally unfortunately, people seem to beleive that these abbreviations
must be standardized in all works (which they are not) and that they are
an essential part of the name (which they are not).  Where the problem
comes is when people use them as part of the name in a database
situation and apply validation to them (then they have to be exactly
consistent or the validation fails).

If I had my way (which I dont') the use of author names in the
Environment portfolio would be totally outlawed except within taxonomic
revisionary treatments and to clarify the application of homonyms.

You have no idea how much valuable intellectual effort and emotional
energy has been squandered in the act of quibbling and agonizing over
the format and how to handle author names and their abbreviations. I
hereby propose the abolition of their use in ANCA as a major work
practice efficiency and expect to earn enough from the efficiency dividend
to buy a new Porche and appoint an extra staff member to something useful
in botany and taxonomy!


If you *must* use author names, the Australian Plant Name Index is as a
consistent a list as any...

> Randomly, I looked at Eucalyptus baxteri on ERIN's Taxon module and
> noticed that it is (Benth.) J.Black, whereas in the Flora Vol. 19,
> it is (Benth.) Maiden & Blakely ex J.Black.  Is there some reason for
> this difference?  Is the first an abbreviated authority while the
> second is the full one?
> cheers
> matt

yes, sort of...

Under the International Code of Botanical Nomenclaure, the bible to
which botanists turn in these matters, pre-'ex' authors are optional or
not strictly required.  Thus both of the citations you quote are
acceptable (and both will be in the Australian Plant Name Index,
abbreviated and in full).  In the herbarium we have chosen to ignore
pre-'ex' authors, although there are some reactionaries who are far from
happy with this enlightened decision.  Sometimes you will come across
post-'in' authors - we have chosen to ignore these as well.  The
philosophy is that anything that simplifies what we do, without
significantly degrading the information base, has to be good.

But from the database point of view, you have only touched on the
consistency problem.  Should there be a space after ')'? should there be
a space between 'J.' and 'Black'?  How many J.Blacks where there and are
they adequately distinguished?  And so on...  To work properly in a
computer sense, these will have to be exactly the same, every time.  If
you ignore the authors you do not have this problem and it can be left to
taxonomists.  Ensuring that taxon names and authors go into databases in
only one way is a major preoccupation these days.

It is worth noting that there have been two widley used 'standards' in
this area: the 'Kew interim list', and the 'Kew list that is perhaps not
quite so interim'.  It is unfortunate that many of the conventions of the
first interim list which were widely adopted by botanical institutions,
and especially those with large database projects, were not carried
through into the second version of the list.  I understand that the
'Flora of Australia' is considering using full author names in future
volumes in an attempt to avoid confusion and inconsistency.

Jim Croft           [Herbarium CBG]               internet: jrc at anbg.gov.au
Australian National Botanic Gardens                  voice:  +61-6-2509 490
GPO Box 1777, Canberra, ACT 2601, AUSTRALIA            fax:  +61-6-2509 599
______Biodiversity Directorate, Australian Nature Conservation Agency______

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