"arcane" rules/was gender of -opsis

Tue Aug 20 17:11:16 CDT 2002

At 07:45 AM 8/20/02 -1000, Richard Pyle wrote:
> > Yes.  That's what I said.  *A* basic tool.  Not *THE* Basic tool.  *A*
> > basic tool.  Of course, without type specimens (or ANY specimens for that
> > matter), all the literature is meaningless.
>I can stare at a Type specimen all day long, examine its DNA, create a CT
>scan of its morphology, and run the data through the most sophisticated
>algorithm on the world's fastest computer....and I will NEVER be able to
>deduce from that specimen the name for which it serves as Type.
>I believe Neal's point is that the "Name" (i.e., nomenclature) can *only* be
>defined in terms of its original description as it appears in the
>literature.  This is because a name is a human construct, not a biological
>entity.  If all literature pertaining to names without the context of type
>specimens is meaningless, then we have a lot of "meaningless" names out
>there in current use.  However, whereas you cannot deduce a name from a type
>specimen, you can often deduce, with reasonable confidence, a species
>definition from its original description.  If all traces of Linnaeus'
>remains were to be destroyed, would the species concept of "Homo sapiens"
>become meaningless?  An extreme case to be sure, but many other examples
>exist where species morphology/biogeography is so distinct and unambiguous,
>that an original description can serve as an adequate linkage between the
>human construct (name), and the biological world.  I agree, this role
>(linking names to biology) is far-better served by an unambiguously
>designated single type specimen.  The type specimen serves as the stem of
>the umbrella that represents a species concept (the outer edges of the
>umbrella rim representing the scope of past, present, and future individual
>organisms who share closer kinship with that type specimen than with any
>other type specimen of what is deemed to be a distinct species).
>I think Steve's point (which I also understand and sympathize with) is that
>excessive fretting over some of these details of nomenclature may not be the
>optimal use of limited global biodollars in terms what it is we are
>ultimately trying to achieve as documenters of biodiversity.  I believe that
>the playing field has changed somewhat dramatically (in terms of information
>technology, and human society in general) since the core principles of the
>existing Codes first came to be. Yes, they've been periodically modified
>over history -- but only in relatively conservative baby-steps (rightly so,
>in my opinion -- given the historical context).  But now we're starting to
>bump up against the very real threat of losing large swaths of biodiversity
>before we ever have a chance to know that it exists in the first place.
>Maybe it's time to lock some of the hard-core Code Warriors in a room with
>some folks from the Long Now Foundation (who spend a lot of time thinking
>about the longevity of information persistence), and try to hammer out ways
>that we can optimally harness information technology to preserve the
>intented principles of the original nomenclatural Codes -- with the primary
>goal being to streamline the process without compromising the integrity of
>the information.

and/or to (1) streamline the processes of preserving the biodiversity
itself and

(2) collect enough specimens of existing global biodiversity in an
organized manner so that future analysts will have optimal amounts of
info., other than fossils, to analyze, nomenclatorially, genetically, and

I submit that the most important information persistence, quantitatively
and qualitatively, is live biodiversity persistence.

Steve Manning

>Richard L. Pyle
>Ichthyology, Bishop Museum
>1525 Bernice St., Honolulu, HI 96817
>Ph: (808)848-4115, Fax: (808)847-8252
>email: deepreef at bishopmuseum.org
>"The opinions expressed are those of the sender, and not necessarily those
>of Bishop Museum."

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