Primary types and stability

Fri Sep 27 18:04:58 CDT 2002

Dear Taxacommittee,

I agree with nearly all of what Giulio just contributed
(and I also enjoyed his better than perfect spelling  ;-)  ),
especially his attempt and those of others to return the
discussion to constructive progress and thus quell the
occasional flaring-up of personal resentment and bickering.

However, there was one part in Giulio's message that
I can't resist taking up:

> How many name-bearing types have been lost or destroyed
> since 1758? Lots. Did these losts significantly burdened
> stability of nomenclature? No.

In the group I'm working on, a family of Diptera, the much
bigger problem are a (not very small) number of collections
going back to the very beginnings of taxonomy, including
Linnaeus, Fabricius, Meigen (the 'founder' of dipterology).
These collections have all been housed and (more or less)
preserved in large, central, 'public' museums in Europe
since the 19th century, and their existence has been known
all along.
Still, for various reasons (e.g., that some, even "National"
museums require one to visit them and pay to see such world
cultural heritage, and then don't have sufficient logistics
for visitors to perform onsite examinations properly) these
original specimens are NOT as thoroughly worked up and
made the basis of our systematics as one would expect
given their origins and the supposed traditionality of our
Consequently, a lot of these original types appear to
threaten the status quo of nomenclature (mind you, not
stability the way I think it ought to be reasonably interpreted,
but that was another discussion thread).

How's that for large, public institutions as a safe haven for
types - old or new - definitely better than any responsible
and cooperative, 'private' but committed individual?

It's like Giulio and others before him wrote:
There isn't any simple, black or white solution to this problem,
especially not a wording for a nomenclature code paragraph
that can prevent all possible dangers. What it takes is
cooperation among as many and diverse institutions, groups
and individuals in systematics as possible. 'Private' researchers
have to help support and promote public collections, and the
latter have to try to facilitate the work of the former.
Without this cooperation, we cannot dream of accomplishing
the tasks in the interest of natural and cultural heritage
we always claim we're after.


Martin Spies
c/o Zoologische Staatssammlung Muenchen
(but not employed there !)
Munich, Germany

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