bad descriptions

Mr Fortuner connection modem fortuner at MATH.U-BORDEAUX.FR
Thu Oct 12 20:48:35 CDT 1995

I have to come to the defense of that Mermithid key that says:
8.  Males
absent     9.
   Males present    12.

When males are present, the
spermathecae of the females is full of sperms (and empty if there are no
males). Looking at the spermathecae, you can decide whether males are present
or absent, even if you have female specimens only. (At least in theory,
because some nematode species are given with males rare, and other with males
absent but non sexually active!)

Talking about nematodes, there is a
"Xiphinema marsupilami" characterized by its very long tail (it's a true
species and well described). (and no, I didn't do it).

The most common
examples of bad taxa are those described by people who don't know what they
are doing (or by bad scientists who don't care to do a good job). I was going
to give my favorite one, but I decided not to: it's like ethnic jokes, they
are often funny but they leave a bad taste in your mouth.

There might be
something organic at work about bad species, and they may follow natural
cycles. Here is a short note published a few years ago:

"To date, the genus
Xiphinema includes 149 valid species. Another 25 species proposed in the genus
were later shown to be junior synonyms of previously described species.
Publication dates for all the species in this genus range from 1893 to 1987.
This wide range of dates, and the high number of described species, gave
enough material for a statistical analysis of the parity of the year of
publication of the various species.
Of the 149 valid species, 98 were
published in odd years, only 51 were published in good years. Table 1 [not
shown here] gives the result of a chi-square test (. . .) the result
(chi-square = 14.8255) is very highly significant (P 1%= 6.63).

that there is a total of 174 nominal Xiphinema species, (. . .) 15.5 synonym
species should have been published during an odd year, and 9.5 species during
an even year. The actual numbers are respectively 10 and 15. Table 2 again
shows a significant deviation from normality.

Conclusions: 1) We strongly
recommend that authors of future new species in Xiphinema make sure that their
descriptions are published during an odd year. They will have the best chance
not to be later synonymized. 2) We also strongly recommend that the readers:
i) do not take this note too seriously; and ii) do realize that it resembles
many scientific articles written by quite serious authors."

It is
better to be rich and healthy than poor and sick (Pierre Dac).

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