Authors of species names

Undetermined origin c/o Postmaster POSTMASTER at HARVARDA.BITNET
Tue Aug 10 23:07:11 CDT 1993

> But in a computerized collection system the "author" is just a lookup
> a table matching binomials with authors.  How could this help discern the
> basis for identification?  Under what general conditions would the
> combining author be useful on a label?

I was NOT considering computerized collection systems (which in my view are
useful only as indices to the actual collections) but to the specimens
themselves.  If on reviewing the material in a Herbarium while conducting a
review (revision) of a group, one finds a manifest misidentification, the
authorship assigned to the name may save a lot of time in redetermining the
specimen: it could be that the identification was "correct" when made but
on the basis of an outdated taxonomic treatment (Flora, monograph) that was
using the wrong name - true there does not need to be an authorship
difference for this to apply, but quite often there is.

I thought I had made it very clear that I was strongly opposed to ADDING
author citations to names after the fact - it is only the authorship
attached to the original identification, whther of a specimen in a
herbarium or a record for an ecological study that is important - and for
the latter citing the Flora or monograph used for the identification is
even better.

> In fact, unless the attached name deals with "concepts" (or we are
> excluding homonyms) the actual author of a name doesn't seem useful for
> your suggested purpose (greater precision).  Now, if you are using the
> concept of authority to identify a name "in the sense of" or "as used by"
> a particular researcher (or Flora), then that name gives meaning to an
> identification.  But it seems to me that that isn't the case, nor can we
> determine if that was the case by merely seeing a binomial followed by a
> name (as seems to a zoologist the general practice at herbaria).  I can
> think of many pieces of information about the process of identification
> that would be more useful to include on a label than author.
I think we are disagreeing more on emphasis than substance.  Yes, there
are other more useful pieces of information on the process of
identification, but that does not mean that the authorship of the name
lacks such information.  It is because I find that the authorship cited
very often DOES indeed give information of the "in the sense of" and "as
used by" type that I see some utility in it - but ONLY if it is the
original identifier's authorship, NOT something added from a recent

Cheers,  John McNeill

(apart from spending all to much time in administration of a Museum, I am
involved with the IOPI (International Organization for Plant Information)
and FNA (Flora of North America) projects).

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