names & numbers

Tue Oct 16 10:13:26 CDT 2001


         I started to respond to a few of the earliest messages in
thread, but was faced with the multitude of messages about this
after a four day weekend out of the office.  Most people have
covered most items I've thought to mention, whether well or
obscurely.  I have just some summary statements to add (though
they probably don't contain any actual new information).

         There is nothing *wrong* with having a supplementary
numbering system.  And Ron's feelings about the uselessness of a
numbering system and Doug's feelings about the necessity of one come
completely from the scope that these people are dealing with.  Ron
works almost exclusively (notice I said *almost*, Ron!) with
relatively (compared to a museum) small series of *southeastern
butterflies* that he is intimately familiar with.  This represents a
set of names that is, with a little practice, relatively easy to
commit to memory.  On the other end of the spectrum are curators of
large *entomological collections*, like Doug.  Here there may be
large series of tens of thousands of species, many of which are
completely unfamiliar to the curator.  The incredible usefulness of a
numbering system under these circumstances should be *obvious*.  As
long as we keep in mind that the numbering system is just that, a
convenience, then a numbering system could make life a whole lot
easier in an institutional collection.  There is nothing wrong with
changing the number from time to time, as long as people are made
aware as to what number applies to what bug.  The numbers do not
necessarily have to mean anything from a systematic standpoint -- Ron
said something about the Hodges numbers representing some sort of
ascending evolutionary heirarchy.  Although that would be nice, and
it does apply to *some parts* of the Hodges list, other parts of the
Hodges list has species in some genera listed alphabetically.  This
was done because relationships simply have not been worked out in
some groups.  Clearly, numbers *will be changed*, in all parts of the
list, when new relationships are determined, and there's nothing
wrong with a number like 4825.1.  Last time I checked, most computers
will know that this number comes after 4825 and before 4826.  NO
relationship decisions should ever be based on the number sequence,
and no potential changes should ever be thrown out to conserve the
number sequence (I've seen this happen!).

         Just my couple of cents worth.


Dr. James K. Adams
Dept. of Natural Science and Math
Dalton State College
213 N. College Drive
Dalton, GA  30720
Phone: (706)272-4427; fax: (706)272-2533  (Georgia Lepidoptera)
U of Michigan's President James Angell's
  Secret of Success: "Grow antennae, not horns"

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