critter names

Kenelm Philip fnkwp at AURORA.ALASKA.EDU
Thu Oct 11 02:04:19 CDT 2001

        Ron Gatrelle just posted re the use of numbers in checklists and
catalogues. He appears to find no use for the numbers in the MONA (Hodges
et al) checklist of NA lepidoptera. Since I have been spending the last few
weeks with that checklist, I would like to reply to his post, at the risk
of preaching to the choir.

1) Numbering checklists and catalogues has been standard practice for a
_long_ time. The McDunnough catalogue (1938) and the Dyar catalogue (1902)
are numbered. The numbering of species allows one to find any given species
in the catalogue _much_ faster than by looking up the name in the index,
and thus is a material aid to use of the list.

2) Ron appears concerned that all species do not have a _whole_ number. It
is also standard practice to add new taxa between whole numbers by using
decimals. This allows last-minute revisions of the catalogue without having
to reset type for all the subsequent numbers. It also allows individual
users of the catalogue to add new taxa and be able to find them by number.
There is no magic numerology associated with whole numbers.

3) With the use of computer files, the ability to sort by catalogue number
is priceless. I have been inputting determined specimens of Alaskan moths
into a database file for a couple of weeks now--and the specimens themselves
are unsorted although they have determination labels from a number of moth
specialists. I can keep a file in specimen-within-Schmitt-box order (which
allows me to add additional information from any given specimen to the file
at any time) and yet instantly produce a taxonomically-arranged list of
species. I will also, later, be able to place these specimens into taxo-
nomic order without having to keep referring back to the catalogue.

        The time saved by not having to refer back to the checklist index
all the time is immense.

        It is true that the numbers in Dyar are unequal to the numbers in
McDunnough, and those in turn are different from Hodges, and Hodges will
be different from the next NA catalogue. Numbers are not about stability--
they are simply an aid to _using_ the catalogue.

        Ron added a comment re the Handfield book:

> I have heard complaints of those numbers in this context: when used in a
> book beside pictures of Lepidoptera as the sole caption (i.e. Handfield,
> 1999).

        That is only a very minor inconvenience, since the Hodges numbers
are used in the text portion of Handfield throughout. It's simple to
have the plate out while the text is open, and see instantly which figure
goes with the species of interest.

        Ron also said:

> econd, he [Hodges] simply placed the known names he accepted (which were
> in turn taken directly from the Miller and Brown Lep. Soc. names)

        That does not apply to the over 10,000 _moth_ names in the cata-

        Finally, Ron wondered if there are any typos in the numbers in the
Hodges catalogue. Nothing is perfect--I found one recently: between 8117
and 8119 you will find 8818. Not a serious problem--the correct number is

                                                        Ken Philip
fnkwp at

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