"Arcane" / "prevailing usage"

Doug Yanega dyanega at POP.UCR.EDU
Sun Aug 25 13:57:25 CDT 2002

Ron Gatrelle wrote:

>Even if we throw out gender matching, new combinations still rock
>the boat of "prevailing usage"  When two common and well know species
>Mitoura siva and Mitoura grynea are found to be conspecific and further in
>another genus  Callophrys grynea grynea and C. grynea siva looks really
>strange and unstable to those who have been used to the "prevailing usage"
>of Mitoura and two species.   At the most all that can be done is keep
>grynea from going back to its original spelling of gryneus.

A great example, for many reasons. First, the combination of "grynea"
with Callophrys *is* apparently gender-matched correctly, if the
other species originally described in Callophrys (e.g., C. perplexa)
are any indication. It was originally gryneus because it was in the
genus Lycus. No problems with siva, as it was originally in Thecla.
But then again, do you know for a fact that "siva" is a latinized
word, and not a reference to the Hindu deity, and thus exempt from
gender-matching? All sorts of possible complications here.
Worse still, "prevailing usage" seems to be VERY inconsistent. A web
search reveals either Mitoura gryneus or Callophrys gryneus on over
70 web pages, while M. or C. grynea appear on roughly 45. Now
*that's* stability for you.

Now, imagine that you have these names in a computer database. It is,
as has been discussed, IMPOSSIBLE to automate gender-matching so it
is done correctly 100% of the time - you absolutely must have the
original descriptions of both the genus and epithet. To do this,
you'd have to check every original description and enter the gender
data into your database. Why ONLY the original description? As seen
in this case, even the taxonomists haven't figured out how to combine
"gryneus" with either Mitoura or Callophrys, so you can't trust that
other people are using the names correctly.

This is one of the reasons folks like me advocate a single
authoritative online registration site for nomenclature (a
"NameBank," as discussed elsewhere in this thread). No debate, no
arguing, no confusion. Each attributable taxon name gets tagged with
a random number when it's registered, and you could assign the gender
at that point. So, Lycus gryneus might be taxon 73578290, and Thecla
siva might be 39200211. However, each of those numbers is linked in
the database to a SINGLE "present combination". Thus, if you do a
search on 73578290, you get "Callophrys (Mitoura) grynea grynea" in
the "present combination" field, and a search on 39200211 gives
"Callophrys (Mitoura) grynea siva". If someone later comes along and
synonymizes them, then *either* number will retrieve "Callophrys
(Mitoura) grynea". If they happen to be moved into a new genus with a
masculine ending, the database would update the "present combination"
to gender-match (or, if you feel that changing the epithets impedes
communication, leave it alone - but the central authority database
will have it only ONE way). The numbers would never change, in any
event. That way, everyone out there with their own database (say, a
collection manager like myself with a specimen database) need only
download the master file from time to time, and all updates to the
names can be made automatically. I'll never personally have to worry
myself over gender-matching if there's a central database tracking
this; I'm a collection manager, not a hairstreak taxonomist, and I
shouldn't be forced to acquire the original descriptions of these or
any *one* of the remaining >300,000 species in my collection just so
I can make sure the epithets in my database are correct.

Thus, the possibility exists that by having a central master file, we
could, if we wanted, keep our gender-matching tradition, without it
causing ANY confusion. Any debates would be ironed out when a name is
registered, since registration would involve explicit citation of the
original description.

How's that sound?

Doug Yanega        Dept. of Entomology         Entomology Research Museum
Univ. of California - Riverside, Riverside, CA 92521
phone: (909) 787-4315 (standard disclaimer: opinions are mine, not UCR's)
   "There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness
         is the true method" - Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chap. 82

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