Hymenoptera classification

Jim Croft jrc at ANBG.GOV.AU
Sat Oct 26 10:56:37 CDT 2002


>      I'm glad I got you to wondering about this.  Actually
> you have three (not two) different groupings named
> Tenthredinoidea in a nested series (which I think ICZN
> probably would not recommend):
>     (1) Tenthredinoidea s.str.
>     (2) Tenthredinoidea sensu "medio?"
>         (= Blasticotomidae + s.str.)
>     (3) Tenthredinoidea sensu latissimo
>         (= Xyelotomidae + s."medio")

This is a very simplistic view of the world, and as 'sensu'
is a mostly taxonomic issue rather that an nomenclatural
one the codes do not care about it (and if they do, they
shouldn't).

In fact there are an arbitrary number of sensus (taxon
concepts or assertions) equal to the number of people
who chose or or have chosen to pronounce upon the matter,
representing the pile of specimens they would choose
to place in (or name as) this taxon.

Some of these senus may be the same, or overlap with
varying degrees of inclusivity, or miss each other
completely.

The best _sensu stricto_ and _sensu lato_ can be taken
for is a verbal flag that acknowledges that there are a
number of different opinions about what a taxon that
bears this name represents.  Any interpretation beyond
that is at best a guess.

sensu J.Smith 1963 is another matter entirely.

There is a lot of interesting work going on in how to
represent alternative taxonomic concepts in a database
and information management context.  Some of this was
presented at recent TDWG (http://www.tdwg.org/) and Flora
brasiliensis revisied meetings at CRIA in Brazil
(http://www.cria.org.br/eventos/tdbi/) - abstracts are on
the website and the presentations are being posted and
should be available shortly.

As examples of this issue have a look at James Ytow's
Nomencurator (http://www.nomencurator.org) and the Berlin
Moretax project of Walter Berendsohn, Anton Guentsch and
Marc Geoffrey
(http://www.bgbm.org/BioDivInf/Projects/MoReTax/default.htm)
and Gillaume Rousse's RefTax project in Paris
(http://lis.snv.jussieu/fr/apps/reftax/).  And there are
a number (a lot?) of others.  The first of these is
building a compact portable tool for recording and
managing nomenclature and taxonomic concepts; the second
is applying set theory to explore how much real information
can be extracted from taxonomic consepts/assertions and
how far you can reliably push information linked to names;
the third is pursuing object oriented technology as a
means of representing taxonomic concepts and their names.

These are all examples of works in progess on a subject
that has been exercing a lot of minds for a number of years.
Taxonomy as practiced is so convoluted and nebulously
defined that an application that ultimately defines it all
may be beyond practical implemntation.  But it is becoming
increasingly obvious that scientific names are not the
inargualbe pointer to information about a taxon - they are
often no more than an outstretched hand making vague
gestures in the general direction.

Which is all a bit of a worry considering the number of
major projects building information architectures around
names as the prominent core, and that we regard names as
*the* link to taxonomic knowledge...  :)

jim


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