what do we call it until it gets a name?

Peter Bostock pbostock at OZEMAIL.COM.AU
Fri Dec 6 20:15:11 CST 1996

At 08:54 5/12/96 -0700, you wrote:
>We are working with an undescribed insect (a new species in a known genus)
>which seems to be promising as a biological control agent. A taxonomist will
>be describing it in due course, but before its name is published we will
>need to refer to the insect in correspondence and in a report which will be
>seen (initially) by about 30 people. My question (as a non-systematist) is:
>what should we call it for the time being? Will it cause problems with
>priority and authorship if we refer to the insect by the name under which it
>will eventually be described? Should we put a disclaimer in the report
>indicating that it is not intended as a new species description? Or should
>we just refer to the insect by a code letter until it gets an official name?
>Alec McClay
>Research Scientist, Biological Control of Weeds
>****New e-mail address****
>alec at aec.arc.ab.ca              Alberta Research Council
>Phone (403) 632-8207            Bag 4000, Vegreville
>Fax   (403) 632-8379            Alberta T9C 1T4, Canada

Queensland Herbarium has pioneered? an undescribed species naming
methodology which allows us to nominate a representative specimen e.g.
Adiantum sp. (Cunnamulla P.Bostock 13000). (BTW this taxon is hypothetical).

This need arose from the fact that we are fully databased (c. 700,000
specimens in about 11,600 native/naturalised vascular plants plus algae &
lichens), needed to produce a census/check-list of Queensland plants for
publication, needed to nominate described and also undescribed taxa for
Nature Conservation legislation, and also wanted to escape from the past
follies of names such as Adiantum sp. 1, Adiantum sp.Q1, Adiantum sp. nov.

Much confusion arose in the past from regional and national floras which
used numbers or codes or letters etc after the genus. Checklists which are
not backed by specimens in a herbarium also suffer from this problem, in
that they are essentially useless if the local knowledge of putative
undescribed taxa is lost later on.

Given that Qld Herbarium currently recognises about 835 undescribed taxa
including 780 at species rank, and we (collective world botanists) are
managing to name only perhaps 5 to 10% of these Queenland taxa per annum,
there is a definite need to be more specific than just 'Genus sp.'. What
happens when there are 15 different undescribed taxa in a genus?

We use the following perhaps clumsy method for undescribed genera: 'Gen.
nov. (AQ123456)' where the code in brackets is a database specimen number.
Undescribed infra-taxa are as follows: Adiantum capillus-veneris subsp.
(Cunnamulla P.Bostock 13000) etc. When a suitable specimen doesn't have a
collectors number, we substitude the acquisition (AQ) number.


Peter B.
Peter D. Bostock, Senior Botanist, Queensland Herbarium
Meiers Road, Indooroopilly, Qld, Australia 4068
pbostock at ozemail.com.au  Fax: +61-7-3896 9624 Ph.: +61-7-3896 9327
Web http://www.ozemail.com.au/~pbostock (TRANSLAT Bot.
Latin translation program (freeware) available at web site)

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