A zoologist asks: botanical names practice

Paul van Rijckevorsel dipteryx at FREELER.NL
Thu Jun 17 11:50:31 CDT 2004

----- Original Message -----
From: Michael Schmitt <m.schmitt at UNI-BONN.DE>
> I strongly disagree. Author name and date of publication in the context of
> a species name are not a citation of a source, as in the running text of a
> scientific paper. Instead, they are means of indicating as precisely as
> possible in a short way which species (hypothesis) is meant. Numerous
> authors, especially in former times, published many names in one year,
used the same name several times in different years, and it is often
ambiguous just to give genus name and specific epithet, even if you give the
author along with it.

> Citing the authority of the determination key you used is just shifting
the duty of providing an unambiguous name to the next level, and this is
quite often not at hand for the reader of your paper.

+ + +
This seems to be in the teeth of the facts. A botanical name can be used
only once, at least, used correctly. Citing an author in a non-taxonomic
publication does not add precision. For any particular name a difference in
author citation will usually mean a difference in when this particular name
was validly published, and this will rightly be ignored by the average user
of a name, as being a bibliographic detail. Adding the author citation would
only add information in the case of a heterotypic homonym (Aaaa bbb Author1
referring to species1 and Aaaa bbb Author2 referring to species2) but this
will certainly be way over the head of any non-taxonomist. I know of one
such case where such homonyms were briefly used side by side, and this got
into the chemical literature resulting in a mess that even a century later
has not been cleared up.

Also, in the case of an author publishing the same name in the same year for
different species (Acer pictum coming to mind as a notorious case), just the
author citation and the year of publication would not work but would require
full citations, a step beyond what was discussed here.

Paul van Rijckevorsel
Utrecht, NL

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