significance of name-bearing types

Lynn Raw lynn.raw at VIRGIN.NET
Wed Oct 2 19:03:03 CDT 2002

Right, as a result of my highly controversial statement (my apologies to
those who suffered a surge in blood-pressure), we have now established the
general opinion that Types are critical for the practice of taxonomy and are
the critical link between nomenclature and taxonomy.

I think we also agree that, in order for taxonomy to proceed, taxonomists
need access to the Types in order to confirm whether the nomenclature is
correctly applied to the biological entities that have been described.

I take it that we also agree that this means that access to Type material
should be available to all individuals (institutionally affiliated or
otherwise) who are undertaking taxonomic research.

Unfortunately we have not established any general or even individual opinion
on the first of my questions.

Ken Kinman and Julian Humphries have suggested very reasonable alternatives
to visiting collections or borrowing the specimens. However, how many
institutions or individuals will actually offer this service is rather
debatable. In my view it could be a great advantage to everyone. There would
be less handling of the specimens, no shipping risk, the digital images
could be made available to several workers at once (oops, that's not so
good, someone else may pre-empt our latest research project!) and a digital
image library could be built up with links into the appropriate taxonomic
databases through the internet. Once reasonable libraries are built up the
saving in curatorial and administrative time, not to mention packing
materials and postage / freight charges, should be considerable.

At this stage I would think that the high cost of digital tomography will
probably limit it to use for special problems rather than general use.
Perhaps advances over time will result in this or similar techniques
becoming more easily available.

Since Type specimens are the 'property of science' and therefore are not
'owned' by either individuals or institutions is there any agreement that it
should be accepted practice that there should not be any charge for access
to such specimens or for digital images of such specimens? If so, would you
agree that this should also be reciprocal. If a researcher makes digital
images or perhaps even tomographic images from these specimens, then these
should be made available without charge to the lending collection and, in
turn, to others on request through the same collection.

Lynn Raw

> At 02:19 2002.10.02, Giulio Cuccodoro wrote:
> >Don't confuse taxonomy (definition of taxa) with nomenclature (how taxa
> >must be named). Name-bearing types are so precious because they are the
> >material link between taxonomy and nomenclature.

and Curtis Clark added
> Absolutely. And it has nothing (currently) to do with typology. Without
> types as the material link, taxonomy is a science without standards ( =
> commonly understood names), and nomenclature is a parlor game without
> substance.
> And for all you database fans, it would be like doing a join on two tables
> that didn't have a field in common.

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