species names for money

Gerhard Haszprunar haszi at ZI.BIOLOGIE.UNI-MUENCHEN.DE
Mon Feb 16 15:38:38 CST 1998

Dear taxacomers,

As mentioned by Dieter Walossek the Zoologische Staatssammlung Muenchen =
(ZSM) runs a "patronomy project" already for more than two years. Find =
in the following an updated text on the subject, which was (in a =
shortened version) published about one year ago in Nature 386: 641.

Systematics Needs Partnership=20
- the Patronomy-Project at the Zoologische Staatssammlung Muenchen

Sir - Recently (Nature 385, 574), Thomas Brooks reported on the =
remarkable case of the newly discovered bird, Vireo masteri, whose name =
has been auctioned by BirdLife International. He welcomed this and =
proposed patronomy as a general strategy for world-wide taxonomy. =
Actually, the Zoologische Staatssammlung M=FCnchen (ZSM) has been doing =
this for over a year already.
     The discovery of the biosphere, the documentation of fossil or =
extant organisms, is one of the most pressing needs of our time, =
considering the threat mankind poses to natural life world-wide. =
However, whereas the in the USA "Systematic Agenda 2000" is well known, =
in Europe, and in Germany in particular, the public is only now becoming =
aware of this aim. Nevertheless, one point is clear: after decades of =
cutbacks and reductions, biosystematic institutions will, without help, =
certainly fail to fulfil the actual requirements. "Systematic Agenda =
2000" needs partnership. Of course the potential partners want something =
for their money, and we have something to offer - small but eternal =
monuments in the world; patronomies.
     The ZSM, a public research institution of zoological systematics, =
has recently taken up the ball. In practical terms we do the following: =
after a donation to our supporting society (at present DM 5.000.- for =
private persons, twice as much for institutions) and the selection of =
"his/her" animal, the donator gets (1) a formal document confirming the =
partonomy, (2) a formal confirmation of the donation; the amount can be =
offset against taxes, (3) an original graphic of the animal (a copy is =
published), and (4) ten reprints of the published paper. Documents and =
graphics are presented at celebration events, twice yearly.
     While I realise that the dedication of a species name "just for =
money" might be disagreeable to certain colleagues, I regard this idea a =
matter of necessity, and its introduction is overdue. The idea of =
patronomy is hardly new. Many classic names of species were dedicated in =
this manner, to express thanks and honour the (financial) support of =
research projects, and to encourage the patron to continue making =
donations. Within our project the scientific author also thanks the =
donator for generous support of biosystematic research. I therefore =
believe that it is important for scientists to volunteer for such =
projects. Clearly, rules must be in place to prevent misuse of the =
project. Individual scientists are encouraged, but not obliged, to take =
part in the project, and both the ZSM and the systematists are at =
liberty to refuse sponsorship. Money from, for example, certain =
political groups would be unwelcome. The statutes of our supporting =
society "Freunde der Zoologischen Staatssammlung, e.V." guarantee the =
correct administration of the donations for zoological research. The =
money is spent to buy collections or books, to support a scientific =
journey, or to finance urgently needed equipment.
     The patronomy project has been running at the ZSM for over two =
years now. Some of our experiences with this project were not originally =
expected: (1) reports in the press and on television are creating =
rapidly increasing interest among potential donators. (2) The media have =
reacted without exception very positively and even, on occasions, with =
enthusiasm. Through these reports we have also been able to raise the =
level of public understanding of the problems of biosystematics and =
biodiversity research. In my view, increasing public awareness is a =
prerequisite to having a voice in politics. (3) The donators (15 to =
date) are not members of the "upper ten thousand", but are members of =
the general public who usually want to dedicate an animal to a loved =
person; to spend them something special - can that be unethical?
     Conventional dedications ("honoris causa") should not, of course, =
be replaced but supplemented by the patronomial project, and it should =
be made clear that patronomy in biosystematics must never become a =
dumping ground (as has happened with determination work).
     The first volumes of papers of the project "Patronomies" has been =
published (Spixiana, Supplement 22 and Vol. 23(3)). These fulfil our =
promise to the past donators and confirm a serious offer to potential =
donators. If the success of our project encourages colleagues to do =
likewise - and in my view there are enough donators for all systematists =
- this would be more than we could have expected.

So far I know our project has been directly followed only by some =
paleontologists of the Museum National d=B4Histoire Naturelle in Paris. =
A long commentary on the subject was published by Prof. Schminke in the =
"Zoosystematic Newsletter" (Newsletter of the Sektion Systematic of the =
German Zoological Society) last year. Controversal discussions (pro and =
contra) and a commentary by myself (sorry: in German, but very similar =
to the text above) are published there and in the DATZ (Deutsche =
Aquarien- und Terrarien Zeitschrift: 1997(11): 752-753.). The story =
certainly will continue.

Gerhard Haszprunar

Prof. Dr. Gerhard Haszprunar, Director of the ZSM
Zoologische Staatssammlung Muenchen,=20
Muenchhausenstrasse 21,=20
D-81247 Muenchen, Germany
Tel: ++4989-8107-104
Fax: --4989-8107-300
e-mail: haszi at zi.biologie.uni-muenchen.de

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