nomenclatorial "bickering"

Ken Kinman kinman at HOTMAIL.COM
Thu Sep 23 08:02:27 CDT 1999

     I am so glad you made the following post, because it illustrates how
past "bickering" has left us with an increasingly complex and legalistic
code of nomenclature.  Mind you that I am not accusing you of "bickering"
(in my comments below), but just using it to point out how time-consuming
and confusing nomenclature has become.

>From: Geoff Read
>There is an addition in the zoo code of an exception to the principle
>[First Reviser]- if there are synonyms proposed simultaneously the one
>given higher rank at the time takes automatic precedence. That may have
>been derivable somewhere else in the 1985 code, but now it is explicit, and
>the first clause in article 24. Previously there was only an explanation of
>an exception for homonyms, and only at genus level and below.

     I thought the Zoological Code was complex back in 1980 when I had to
use it, but it seems to be getting worse.  Thanks heavens names above family
level are not regulated by the Codes.
     My one brush with the Code was time-consuming and irritating and
illustrates why I am so impatient with what I call unproductive "bickering".
  While I was working on the 2nd Edition of "Mammals of North America"
(Hall, 1982), Dr. Hall discovered a couple of "nomina oblita" (long
forgotten names) that had priority over Mesoplodon (an important genus of
whales).  The short story is that he refused to follow the Code and
therefore threatened the stability of this widely used name, so I felt
obligated to go to the International Commission and I co-authored the
article requesting that Mesoplodon be preserved and the two forgotten names
be formally rejected.  The Commission agreed unanimously and Mesoplodon is
the official name.
     So the system works, but what a pain in the behind the whole ordeal was
(and took over 5 years), even though it was not a complex case.  In the
present hypothetical case under discussion (the two beetle Tribes), I don't
whether there is a First Reviser or not, but I really feel sorry for the
biologists who have to put in so much time (that could be spent doing real
research) in the nomenclatural maze we now have.  Anyway, when I speak of
unproductive "bickering", nomenclature (especially debates over priority) is
near the top of the list.  We obviously need rules and an International
Commission, but I would think that serving on it would be a frustrating and
almost thankless job.
                       -------Ken Kinman

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