A zoologist asks: botanical names practice

Meredith Lane mlane at GBIF.ORG
Thu Jun 17 17:39:45 CDT 2004

Dear Taxacom,
I think a bit of history is in order here.

>There is no such cancellariid as "Cancellaria longicirrata Massy, 1917" which is assigned to the equally non-existent genus Massya on ITIS.  (msg from Dick Petit)
When ITIS originally began, it combined a number of data sets that had
been held by various US govt. agencies for who knows how long.  It takes
a while on a shoestring budget to work through all of the accumulated
nomenclatural errors (as noted by Dick).  If you go to GBIF, and search
for "Cancellaria longicirrata",  then click on the name, you get to the
ITIS record, which tells from whence the name came into the ITIS system
(in this case the NODC taxonomic code).  You'll note that the taxonomic
status is noted as valid, but *and here is the important part* the data
quality standard is given as "credibility rating unverified".   That
sounds pretty close to "caveat emptor" to me.

Clicking back one page to the GBIF results page, you will see a little
green envelope under the heading *user feedback*.  Clicking on that
provides you an e-mail form in which you can contribute your comments.
Users have reported to us that ITIS has been responsive to messages
received in this way.

I think it is fair to say that no taxonomic index in history has been
infallible, and a thorough researcher will in fact check the primary
literature  in detail, but it sure does help to have the index as a
guide to getting to that literature in the first place.   The wish and
hope that an electronic taxonomic index will be more correct than the
famous printed ones (e.g. Gray Card Index, Index Kewensis, Zoological
Record) will only come true if the experts make corrections as they find
the errors and the list providers are responsive to comments.  The
informatics developments needed to make this a fully automated mechanism
are not much more than a gleam in our eyes right now, but GBIF is taking
steps to see that those developments come to fruition.

Please help with this process by using the feedback buttons on the GBIF
site whenever you encounter an error.  The cleanup of all these data is
a BIG job, but, as my grandma used to say, "many hands make small work."
Meredith A. Lane, PhD
PR & Scientific Liaison
GBIF Secretariat
Global Biodiversity Information Facility
mlane at gbif.org
www.gbif.org <http://www.gbif.org>

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