Bad Examples

Benjamin Martin Waggoner bmw at UCLINK2.BERKELEY.EDU
Wed Oct 11 09:09:15 CDT 1995

On Wed, 11 Oct 1995, Judith E. Winston wrote:

> The thread on keys has been most entertaining.  I have another
> request for bad examples ---I'd like to be able to give
> students some really outrageously bad examples of species
> description, as for example when someone described the
> pedicellaria of an echinoid as a new hydroid species.  Now my
> colleagues can call tell me of bad examples in their field, but
> I don't want to use any that impugn the reputations of the
> living.  I'd rather use published examples from the past?  Can
> you think of any such "good" bad examples?  Thanks, Judy Winston

Ellis L. Yochelson wrote a review paper (1991) that listed three good bad
examples. The paleobotanist E. W. Berry once described a fossil,
_Calcophysoides balli_, which turned out to be part of a "Cape Cod"
firelighter. (Never having been to Cape Cod, I'm not sure just what
that is.)
   What was originally described as a fossil ear of corn
turned out to be an Indian-made replica of an ear of corn (Brown, 1934).
   Finally, Yochelson includes one of his own errors, so I guess it's
all right to bring this one up: he described a fragment of the eye
of the Devonian trilobite _Phacops_ as the sieve plate of a tunicate
(Fauchald, Sturmer, and Yochelson, 1988).
     I'll keep my eyes open for more. . .

Sources: Yochelson, E. L. 1991. Problematica / Incertae Sedis. Pp. 287-296
in: The Early Evolution of Metazoa and the Significance of Problematic
Taxa (A. R. Simonetta and S. Conway Morris, eds.) Cambridge University
Press, Cambridge.

Berry, E. W. 1937. A correction. Torreya 37: 108.

Brown, R. W. 1934. The supposed fossil ear of maize from Cuzco, Peru.
J. Wash. Acad. Sci. 24: 293-296.

Fauchals, K., Sturmer, W., and Yochelson, E. L. 1988. Two worm-like
organisms from the Hunsruck Slate (Lower Devonian), southern Germany.
Palaontologisches Zeitschrift 62: 201-215.

Ben Waggoner
Dept. of Integrative Biology
University of California
Berkeley, CA 94720 USA, arguably
bmw at

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