"arcane" rules/was gender of -opsis

John Noyes jsn at NHM.AC.UK
Fri Aug 16 11:39:34 CDT 2002


Doug Yanega wrote:
>It was appropriate that
>John Noyes chimed in here a moment ago, as he's a good example of
>someone who is negatively affected by this sort of thing: there are
>at least 13 species names on his CD-ROM of world Chalcidoidea that
>are "-opsis" genera with *masculine* epithets. He now has to go in,
>track these down one by one (to exclude the possibility that the
>authors of both the genera and the species didn't write in some
>counter-Code exclusionary clauses), and CHANGE them in the next
>edition of the CD-ROM. It's a hard enough (and often thankless) task
>to make a decent catalog, and it's made vastly worse if you're
>expected to track the proper conjugation of tens of THOUSANDS of
>names. To continue the story, when John issues the new CD, then those
>of us who use it as a database authority file are going to have to
>manually go into our databases (after doing a search for non-matching
>names) and eliminate the duplicated taxon names, because our database
>software CANNOT recognize that Tineobiopsis mexicanus Gibson 1995 and
>Tineobiopsis mexicana Gibson 1995 are the same taxon unless we tell
>it so.

Yes it is true. However, I should say that generally speaking I employ the
names in the database that are used by the authors and do not attempt to
correct them (although I will emend them if there as an obvious mistake).
If I did so then it would take an age as Doug says as I would have to check
the derivation of all names and then check what the author actually meant
by the name he used. I gave up doing this when it became apparent with one
generic name in particular that it could be have been derived in several
different ways resulting in a possibility of three genders for the name
(the name was Callipteroma and depending on how it was derived one could
end up with it being masculine, feminine or neuter), in the end we decided
on feminine gender because that was the way it was used in the original
publication).

I think much of the argument here is not so much about the rules of
Nomenclature, but the requirement that the species epithet must agree in
gender with the generic name. That IS arcane and I agree with Greg
Zolnerowich on that point. If we use the original lithography then it would
make cataloguing, etc. much easier. This would not change the meaning of
the name at all. One other thing. Deriving a scientific name from something
that describes the taxon (distribution, colour, morphology, host, etc.) can
be totally misleading. In my group there is a species called aligarhensis
(Aligarh is a town in northern India) which is found all the way from
England to Australia, Japan and Zimbabwe. We have a genus Syprphophagus,
many species of which are parasitoids of aphids or psyllids. We have a
species flavus in a genus of 400 plus species where almost all species are
yellow. We have a species called flavus where the commonest form is black
(or nearly so) and so on. I also manage to remember the names of all my
friends and colleagues (several hundred at least) without the slightest
clue about what their neames mean. I also do not care in the slightest what
their names mean. Most taxonomists in the world do not have any idea about
Latin or Greek. In my view a name should be short, memorable and phonetic.
I AM against aribtrary combinations of letters that are unpronounceable and
eminently forgettable such as Martin Spies just mentioned - B. mdfrc (I am
Welsh and can pronounce and remember Llwchllwy, but I have refrained from
using this as a species epithet or even generic name because I know that
most people out there would not have a clue). Yes, and I did Latin in
school too!

Finally, thanks Doug for pointing out the mistake with the -opsis endings.
I shall now go and check these names out. Ahhhh . . more unnecessary work.

John

Entomology Department, The Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, South
Kensington, London, SW7 5BD, UK

Tel. +44 (0)207-942-5594  Fax: +44 (0)207-942-5229

INTERNET: jsn at NHM.ac.uk

Interactive catalogue and biological database of World Chalcidoidea on CD:

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see also www.taxapad.com

Encyrtidae of Costa Rica:
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Course on taxonomy and biology of parasitic Hymenoptera:
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