critter names

Una Smith una at LANL.GOV
Wed Oct 10 16:36:09 CDT 2001

Doug Yanega wrote:

>Consider that you can't teach a database program how to conjugate latin.

Why can't you?  I think I could;  there aren't too many exceptions...

>if you have a specimen labeled, say, "Leptocoris trivittatus" and the
>database entry for that taxon - unbeknownst to you - is "Boisea
>trivittata". What happens is your search comes up empty, because the
>computer doesn't know that things like "igniventris" and "igniventre"
>are effectively the same thing.

Well, a good taxonomic database would include the taxonomic history of
a species.  After all, it is possible that your Leptocoris trivittatus
and Boisea trivittata are not *exactly* the same thing, even if they
share the same holotype.  A name change may reflect a crucial change of

A good taxonomic database should provide automatic recognition that the
epithets trivittatus and trivittata, or igniventris and igniventre, are
variants of the same word.  Or, even better, it would include the full
web of published taxonomic relationships, and *never* attempt to guess
at the current correct name by pattern-matching on epithets.

>If we hope to use automation to assist in taxonomic information
>management and museum curation, we will continue to suffer as long as
>species epithets can fluctuate...UNLESS we come up with some sort of
>parallel scheme where each species-level taxon is given a unique
>number, which remains intact no matter what happens to the genus and

For this particular problem I think all we need is better programming.
Creating a parallel naming scheme merely translates the problem into
another form.

        Una Smith

Los Alamos National Laboratory, Mailstop K-710, Los Alamos, NM  87545

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