ICBN recommendations on new spp.

Harvey E. Ballard, Jr. hballard at STUDENTS.WISC.EDU
Tue Dec 17 10:20:37 CST 1996

Of course, folks often neglect the ICBN recommendations--that were
presented to improve our understanding of the distinctions of newly
described species from previously published ones.  These include
Recommendation 32B, that "The description or diagnosis of any new taxon
should mention the points in which the taxon differs from its allies",
which is to say that showing off one's abilities with Latin in an over-long
description still falls short of presenting the clear distinctions of a new
taxon from its morphologically most similar relatives.  I dislike full
descriptions because they put the onus of ferreting out the protologues and
trying to interpret the taxonomic differences between the new and older
taxa on the reader.  It also smacks suspiciously of deception by the
author, as though the person can't really put into a few terse phrases how
the new taxon really differs substantially from previously published ones!

Recommendation 32C, which many authors ignore to our detriment, says that
"In describing or diagnosing new taxa, authors should, when possible,
supply figures with details of structure as an aid to identification".  I
realize that adoption of "forced illustration" as a rule rather than as a
recommendation would slow some authors down to a mere 10 quick papers or 20
new species names per year.  However, it takes little more energy to slap a
photocopy of a specimen onto a light table and do a quick tracing of habit,
leaves and an eyeball of the major floral or fruit structures than it does
to make the measurements for a careful english description, and even a
crude illustration helps immensely to visualize what the taxon looks like.
With computer imaging technology, most biology departments of even colleges
and small universities in larger cities have access to imaging capabilities
that make direct illustration from herbarium specimens and other
preparations very simple and very accurate.

Again I say, I would prefer a two-line Latin diagnosis differentiating a
new taxon from all of the most similar taxa and a moderately good (or even
a crude) illustration, over a flawless but rambling and excruciatingly
detailed Latin description without an illustration.

Thanks for your patience,
Harvey Ballard

More information about the Taxacom mailing list