critter names

Kenelm Philip fnkwp at AURORA.ALASKA.EDU
Thu Oct 11 10:12:59 CDT 2001


        Ron and I are not in agreement re catalogue numbers. He says:

> Which simply shows the flaws with check list numbers which are usually
> only in sequence without regard to biotic relationship.

That's not quite the situation. Checklists are normally ordered precisely
by biotic (i.e.: taxonomic) relationship. Sorting a specimen list by
catalogue number will instantly place them in taxonomic order (according
to the checklist author's ideas of same).

> Computers work just as well with words, codes, what ever one sets up a
> program to do.

Ron is correct here--it is _possible_ to teach one's comnputer to recognize
all the names in the Hodges list and sort them to order. That would be a
rather time-consuming job, however. I find it simpler to place the catalogue
number on the determination label, and in any resulting database. After
that it becomes a trivial task to locate any taxon, or sort the database
to taxonomic order. That way I don't have to spend my time typing the
entire catalogue into a database by hand--which would have to be done to
arrange for sorting to taxonomic order from names alone. And no--I don't
memorize the catalogue numbers.  :-)

> Scanner programs that can input and arrange thousands of words in a micro
> second.

        No, no, a thousand typos no! OCR is not yet perfect--one has to
carefully proofread the result for a number of very wierd typos. The
mere thought of having to proofread a file containing the entire Hodges
catalgue for random typos gives me the cold shudders...

        As regards Ron's complaint with the Handfield book's use of the
checklist numbers, I find that a minor problem compared to the far more
serious problem that the plates in the volume are loose, and lack suffic-
ient margins for binding, or storing in a three-ring notebook. Many people
are having to purchase transparent sleeves for the plates so they can put
them in a notebook. Compared to that, the use of catalogue numbers on the
plates is a small nuisance indeed...

        It's clear that Ron and I are using (or in his case: _not_ using)
catalogue numbers for very different reasons. My reasons have nothing to
do with the search for an (illusory, in my estimation) stability in
nomenclature. I am concerned only with rapid access to data, and the
ability to arrange taxa in order (both in the computer and in the cabinet).
Any spreadsheet or database program can sort by number, untaught. No such
program can _automatically_ sort taxa into taxonomic order by name unless,
in effect, a number of some kind is first assigned to each taxon.

                                                        Ken Philip
fnkwp at uaf.edu




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