"Arcane" / "prevailing usage"

Barry M. OConnor bmoc at UMICH.EDU
Mon Aug 26 14:58:22 CDT 2002


In a paper in the most recent issue (dated 2001) of a highly regarded
journal (one that does not typically publish taxonomic papers), the
following statement appears (text modified to protect the guilty):

[The taxonomy of the family Xus is somewhat confused.  Xus aus (Smith,
1905) is probably a junior synonym of Aus bus (Smith, 1924).  However since
Jones (1982) and Wang (1976) use the species name bus in their important
identification keys, we prefer to use this name.]

The title of the paper, again paraphrased, begins: [Life-cycle of Xus bus
(=aus)...]

Clearly the authors/reviewers/editors are not taxonomists, viz. use of the
genus name as the family name; referring to the older name as the "junior"
synonym; not realizing that the "official" synonymy had been proposed by
two different authors in 1978 and 1980.

This suggests that among these non-taxonomists, "prevailing usage" - here
apparently defined as "usage by an authority" - carries more weight than
the Principle of Priority. - Barry

Barry M. OConnor
Curator & Professor             phone: (734) 763-4354
Museum of Zoology               FAX: (734) 763-4080
University of Michigan          e-mail: bmoc at umich.edu
1109 Geddes Ave.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1079  USA




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