lost types (was Re: Private collections of museum curators)

Doug Yanega dyanega at POP.UCR.EDU
Tue Oct 1 17:52:24 CDT 2002


Lynn Raw wrote:

>In a way, types seem to be given more significance than they deserve. They
>are useful but not essential to the practice of taxonomy and may not even be
>typical of the population from which they were taken. To me, the original
>printed description is more important since it is the basis of the
>nomenclature. A Type has no significance without the original published
>description but the description remains valid even if the Type is lost. I
>thought that we were (supposed to be) moving away from the old Typological
>taxonomy.

I'm sure I won't be the first to pounce on this as wholly untrue. If
no one has ever seen the Type of a taxon, the best it can hope for
(when someone gets around to revising the group) is a "nomen dubium".
If it is genuinely lost, then a Neotype is assigned, generally from
among the type series. Printed descriptions are frequently utterly
inadequate to recognize a taxon, and it's not uncommon for them to
literally be *in error* in any number of ways. Furthermore, I'm aware
of cases where people designated holotypes and never published the
descriptions, yet those specimens went on to be described by someone
else (even using the previously-unpublished name), so a type without
a description *can* be given significance by later workers; but if
there is a description that literally has no type or type series,
then it can NEVER be given significance - that's what a "nomen
dubium" is all about. Right?

Sincerely,
--

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)
            http://entmuseum9.ucr.edu/staff/yanega.html
   "There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness
         is the true method" - Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chap. 82




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