A zoologist asks: botanical names practice

Ron at Ron at
Thu Jun 17 15:02:24 CDT 2004

----- Original Message -----
From: Richard Petit
Sent: Thursday, June 17, 2004 10:23 AM
Subject: Re: A zoologist asks: botanical names practice


I am also amazed at the suggestion by others on TAXACOM that references to
original citations are unnecessary. How else can it be insured that all
workers are referring to the same taxon?

Respectfully submitted,


Exactly.  Perhaps some need to be reminded that a taxon is ONLY what the
original author presented it as (that hypothesis, paradigm, delineation,
affixation - about 200 other such terms).  We others often come along after
the fact and (correctly or incorrectly) re asses and re associate taxa.
Further, (ZN Code) it is the type alone that provides the "objective
standard" by which the taxon to which the epithet has been fixed can be
discerned - and by which the epithet can be applied -  by subsequent
workers.  In ZN, every name has a type (actual or potential). Without this
name bearing type, a name is invalid.  The type bears the name, the name
does not bear the type.

The type is where the taxonomy and nomenclature BOTH have their basis - the
cornerstone of both.   Without the reference to the author's original
publication (------, 1760) everyone is only GUESSING as to what that taxon
_and_ the nomenclature was originally presented to be.  And even there, in
many of the really old cases it is so much guess work that the name (&
taxon) become nomen dubium or nudum and are discarded.   It is 100% all a
matter of definition  _for the purpose of_ correct taxonomic communication
via nomenclature.  One can not jump in (start) at the middle or end and be
sure they are going to come out with a correct conclusion.  One must start
at the beginning.  Sorry, that's why this work sucks - all those old paper
trails.   Author / original publication is essential data to all subsequent
assessments of both known and (what we think to be) unknown biota.

Ron Gatrelle

As a PS,  re the "starting in the middle" one of the most common mistakes we
as taxonomists make is to "start" with some subsequent worker's "expert"
assessment and conclusion of X taxon or taxa.   My most recent paper dealt
with finding out that two taxa (long held as valid subspecies) were actually
not only the same subspecies, but originated from basically the same
location!!   It all centered around researcher after researcher authoring
the same errors of the previous "expert" and never going back to the verry
beginning.  In this case, a valid Fabrician holotype in the NHM, London. The
true type locality of both taxa was coastal Georgia, USA.  BUT from 1793 to
2004 the type locality of the nominate subspecies had been _assumed_ to be
Newfoundland, Canada!!  OFF by over a thousand miles - and in a region where
the taxon has never even been found.   All someone had to do was start at
the beginning.... do the boring paper chase... and some field collecting.
You know, that world outside our office's window :-).  Well, for those few
lucky enough to have a window.

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