One species, was Re: One origin? (viral evolution)

Barry Roth barry_roth at YAHOO.COM
Mon Jul 23 10:52:55 CDT 2001

 For better or for worse, decisions on synonymy belong to that great democracy that is Systematics.  There is no code or governing body which passes authoritatively on such decisions.  And, as in any democracy, there are good citizens (those who make their reasons and justification for synonymy clear) and not-so-good ones (those who publish synonymies without stated justifications or with some formula like "I regard <taxon A> as a synonym of <Taxon B>").
Since most users of the taxonomist's end-product are concerned only with the bottom line ("just the name, ma'am"), they do not inspect the literature very carefully to see which synonymies have good justification and which do not.  This is particularly true of widely disseminated and broadly used lists (which I assume include the mammal works you cited).  The potential for harm, as in the case of endangered species -- which an agency could argue does not exist, citing a poorly made synonymy -- is considerable.
Barry Roth
  Janice Koler-Matznick <jkoler at CCOUNTRY.NET> wrote: Question from the p-nut gallery of taxonomy: Would the mammal lists, such
as Honacki et al.'s or Reeder and Wilson's Mammals of the World, be
considered an "effectively published venue" for synomizing previously
separately named species with equal priority? They provide no species
descriptions or revisions but synomized many long-established names without
providing justification, relegating former species to subspecific status.
Now, many are using their recommended designations and citing them as the
authority. It was my understanding that changing a species name requires
publication of a revision/justification, so I am curious whether or not such
lists are considered "official" publication of a new designation.

Janice Koler-Matznick
jkoler at

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