burning library books

Wolfgang Lorenz Faunaplan at AOL.COM
Thu Aug 22 10:29:30 CDT 2002

Russell Seymour wrote:
>To my mind the philosophy of conservation efforts should focus on efforts
retain the
'context' of the species; without this our knowledge becomes severely

... and for knowing how to save species we must increase our efforts for a
sophisticated storage of information,  - just for in-time, economic retrieval
of what we know. Since scientific names are the key to all information linked
to species, they must be unambiguous and as stable as possible, - which is
only guaranteed by adhering to a universally accepted set of rules: the Codes.

Of course, in the face of ongoing large-scale extinctions and the urgent need
for a boost of research on the unknown 90% of living species, taxonomists
have more important work to do than spending hours on intricate nomenclatural
problems, - but then someone must do the thankless job, e.g. create
simple-to-use tools or just 'telefone-books' of valid names, - or else the
way to Babylon is not far.

There are, IMHO, some signs for increasing awareness that invertebrates must
play a major role in nature conservation. In Europe, many countries have
official up-to-date and extensive Red Data lists of invertebrates. Even some
of the megadiverse insect groups like ground beetles (Carabidae, currently
some 33.500 described species worldwide) are more and more used as
'indicators' or 'target organisms' in nature conservation planning. Of
course, most invertebrates will never be the 'flagships', but with accurate
lists of endangered species you can highlight a wide range of endangered
The main problem is access to the known facts: With an inflationary list of
synonyms (more than 55.000 published names in Carabidae!), many regional
checklists with their own nomenclature, and an extremely fragmented
literature, the risk of overlooking important information is unavoidable.

For some years I was trying to compile a 'telefone-book' for the scientific
names of ground beetles (even without 'bio-euros'),  - simply because I
needed it for my own database work and I thought someone else would find it
useful. A first 'test edition' appeared in 1998 (a time when the ICZN Code
was 'under construction' for almost half a decade). Now the second edition is
in preparation, but some problems with the new ICZN 4th ed. are still
unresolved: e.g.,
- what is "prevailing usage"?
- what about primary homonyms used simultaneously as valid names? (see my
previous post on TAXACOM, which didn't get any response),
- did the definition of "incorrect subsequent spellings" change since ICZN
- etc....
... just a few intricacies and maybe even bugs of the new Code - certainly no
reason for throwing it all over board - but practicable solutions are
urgently needed. I'm not sure if TAXACOM is an appropriate forum for such dry
stuff, so I'm simply asking: is there another list where undeterred Code
users can post some of their boring questions?

Wolfgang Lorenz
Tutzing, Germany

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