Primary types in private collections

Giulio Cuccodoro giulio.cuccodoro at MHN.VILLE-GE.CH
Fri Sep 27 15:12:37 CDT 2002

Richard L. Pyle wrote:

>On the issue of specimens and where they are physically stored, Doug Yanega
>nailed it a couple million posts ago when he pointed out that it ultimately
>boils down to ACCESS and PERPETUITY.  The issue with primary types is
>exactly the same; only MUCH more intensely so.

Ron Gatrelle wrote:

>Looks like the real issue is ownership and not location of specimen.

Name-bearing types should belong to the international scientific community,
and their depositories (whatever their status is) should insure perpetuity
and access.

OK, so lets try to coin it in ICZN!

Name bearing types are property of the international scientific community.
What does that really mean? That types should not be sold or bought? It is
often because there was some money to make out of granfa's collection that
heirds decided to get in touch with Museum or granfa's colleagues instead
of trowing his drawers in the fireplace.

Perpetuity? It can never be insured (Twin Towers Syndrom).

Access? It must be insured only to relevant specialists (whatever their
status is), for relevant purposes, and as long access do not reasonably
threatens perpertuity (intrinsic property of the name-bearing specimen of
vampires to become dust at sun exposure, use of seriously suspect mail
systems like USmail, seriously suspect destinations like Bagdad, specialist
inhabiting a beautiful 2'000'000 us$ undersea cottage, etc.).

I can't see how these concepts could be defined objectively. But maybe I'm
wrong and a genial codification is finally achieved in a new ICZN.
Excellent, I buy!

Then imagine one day I casually refuse to loan a type to an emeritus
colleague just because I have been marvelled by the way his fingers were
shaking together incontrollably each time he was looking at specimens of
his favorite group. Very upset, the emeritus colleague produce a medical
certificate attesting his good health to the ICZN Commity which, using its
plenary power, rules that doing so, I contravented the new ICZN 'access
article'. My institution is downgraded to an inelligible name-bearing types
depository. And then? All the names based on name-bearing types deposited
in my institution since the last revision of ICZN would be invalidated?

Stop joking. The fondamental function of ICZN, as far I understand it, is
to draw objective criterions to guide taxonomists on the stony trail toward
stability of nomenclature. To coin subjective and idealistic concepts such
as Property, Access and Perpetuity in ICZN will add nothing to this aim. It
would instead insidiously drift ICZN on the hugly slope of a repression
tool, with side effects going potentially against its aim.
Name-bearing types get lost or destroyed? That's a pitty, really,
especially when these were unique representative of the taxa. How many
name-bearing types have been lost or destroyed since 1758? Lots. Did these
losts significantly burdened stability of nomenclature? No.  Did these
losts significantly burdened the comprehension we have of this World? No.
So why should taxomomist, curators and redactors be transformed into
policemen on this issue? The lines drawn in ICZN Art. 16.4.2., Recs 16C and
72F are enough to satisfy the basic needs of taxonomy in this respect. The
rest is not a matter of rules, but of deontology, common sense, and

After all this threat, my final words will be that name-bearing types are
undoubtfully very usefull tools for taxonomists, but they are not vital
enough for taxonomy to justify the implementation of coercitive rules and
sanctions regarding their perpetuity and access.

Giulio Cuccodoro                Voice   +41(0)22 418 63 90
Muséum d'Histoire Naturelle
C.P. 6434                       Phone   +41(0)22 418 63 00
CH-1211 Genève 6, Switzerland Fax     +41(0)22 418 63 01

Colis/parcel :
Muséum d'Histoire Naturelle, Rte de Malagnou 1, CH-1208 Genève

The opinions expressed in this email are those of the sender, and not
necessarily those of the Natural History Museum of Geneva.

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