nomenclature and the code

p stevens p_stevens at NOCMSMGW.HARVARD.EDU
Wed Jan 10 09:33:04 CST 1996

The issue of declining number of systematists describing species aside, the
complexity of the code means more than the relative dearth of people who
understand all its ins and outs.  It means that we spend large amounts of
time - time that surely could be better spent - on unravelling purely
nomenclatural issues.  It also means that to the outsider systematics
continues to be seen as a discipline that is as much interested in names as
in biology, evolution, or anything like that...

I would very much like to see the issue of priority revisited.  Why
systematists should have to recheck the attribution of all the names ever
used in a group every time that group is monographed is beyond me (of course,
many larger groups haven't been monographed within the last 100 years, but
that is in part another issue).  Why not restart the clock when a group is
monographed, to the effect that only names that are accepted in that
monograph have any nomenclatural standing?   I realise that there are
problems involved in instituting such a retooling of priority, but where
there is a will, there will be a way.  We cannot let the past so circumscribe
our future.

Such a retooling will surely greatly reduce the amount of nomenclatural work
that systematists undertake.  It will also greatly reduce the amount of space
devoted to type collections, hence making their proper curation far easier,
slim down data bases of names and type specimens, and make it easier for
systematists world-wide to inventory nature and understand its genealogy.

Peter Stevens.

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