More GBIF questions (was: ITIS)

B.J.Tindall bti at DSMZ.DE
Wed Jun 23 08:07:08 CDT 2004

Sounds easy, but it isn't..... This is where the world of nomenclature and
taxonomy stands on its head. Complete lists of names can be found in both
virology and bacteriology. The Bacteriological Code developed as an
off-shoot of the Botanical Code, taking with it many of the earlier
concepts. The paradox is that while we have complete and accurate lists,
with reference to authors, dates, publication, type strains and their
location, it is bacterial nomenclature which is the biggest mess...... The
reason is simple - the lack of interest in the way the Bacteriological Code
works and the unfortunate practice of asking the "next best" microbiologist
about nomenclature and taxonomy. Thus we have complete lists of synonyms
(and here I would correct Meredith - you won't EVER get rid of synonyms),
but lists not overseen directly by people familiar with the Bacteriological
Code have a nasty habit of treating EACH name as a different species.......
Of course the problem can be summarised quite simply by a general lack of
interest in way the Code works and the fact that there are so few people
left who could even teach the next generation (I would estimate no more
than 5) that we are facing an era of extinction. This wouldn't be too bad
if it wasn't for the fact that the Internet and databases have been "caught
on the hop", and have discovered that in order to "order their biological
data" they need some kind of index, which happens to be the scientific
names of the taxa. This does not just apply to GBIF, ITIS, Species 2000,
but also to GenBank, EBI/EMBL etc.

Having posted an earlier e-mail supporting efforts to improve the
situation, we also seem to have neglected providing a longterm solution,
which means, not just tidying up the present, but making sure that there
are people trained to work with the Codes and keep the databases in order,
as well as communicating to the end users of the system how to use it. What
we are seeing at present is a system which needs to be repaired because it
was neglected, but with only about 5000 species of prokaryote described to
date we will certainly be dealing with a significantly greater number in
the future. Considering that taxonomies may never be "absolute" we will
have to keep track of synonyms and changing taxonomic concepts .... and who
is going to do that if you don't provide the right environemnt to do such
work and encourage people to gain experience in that area ....

Vice chairman of the Judicial Commission of the International Committee on
the Systematics of Prokaryotes.

At 22:29 22.6.2004 +0200, Paul van Rijckevorsel wrote:
>> Wolfgang Lorenz wrote:
>> >On a side note, two questions:
>1.) Obviously, since the Rio Convention there have been increased efforts
>(GBIF, Species2000, UBIO, etc.) to address and solve the 'names problem'
>(part of the 'taxonomic impediment'), but it seems to me that the logic
>central role of the Codes (IZCN, ICBN, etc.) has received too little
>attention, so far.
>In Coleoptera Carabidae, I have to deal with more than 60.000 names (without
>counting secondary generic combinations) for 34.000 species, and I
>encountered more than 1000 names problems that cannot be settled on the
>basis of the current ICZN Code (4th ed.). Obviously there is an urgent need
>for several important amendments in details of the Code (see also recent
>discussions on the ICZN-list).
>+ + +
>I think I missed what the "ICZN-list" is?
>+ + +
>From: Meredith Lane <mlane at GBIF.ORG>
>> It seems to me that we need to clarify a little more closely that there
>are really two classes of "names problems" :
>1)  Those that arise from nomenclatural practice as governed (or not) by
>the Codes -- such as those you describe for your carabids.
>2)  Those that arise because of transcription errors of one sort or
>another (e.g. taxonomist who named it got the orthography wrong, person
>who ID'ed a specimen spelled the name wrong, person who entered specimen
>data into a database committed a typo).
>+ + +
>I have never seen "name problems" divided into those two classes. It is more
>usual to divide them into:
>1) taxonomic problems ("This species belongs into what genus?" and perhaps
>"This name has an insufficient diagnosis and supporting material to place
>it. Is it a separate species at all?")
>2) nomenclatural problems (like, rediscovered old names threatening
>established names; also, the question to correct or not to correct the
>taxonomist who named it but got the orthography wrong)
>Besides that there are various problems such as "unpublished names" in
>current use and indeed transcription errors.
>+ + +
>> Fixing the Codes won't take care of class 2
>+ + +
>In some cases it will
>+ + +
>>, but it is *many* of those
>that ITIS, Species2000 and GBIF have to deal with, in addition to the
>confusions occasioned by class 1. Gradually, as those working on GSDs
>(global species databases) for various groups of organisms complete
>their work, much of the name-clutter will be cleaned up. [...]
>> GBIF would be pleased to talk with the Commissions about ways that its
>Electronic Catalogue of Names of Known Organisms (ECAT) could be
>utilized in innovative ways to speed up the process of sorting out
>nomenclature, and perhaps even eliminating the future generation of
>+ + +
>The ICZN is put together by a Commission, but the ICBN is "amended" by a
>more complex procedure, as is (I think) the Bacterial Code. Using databases
>"in innovative ways to speed up the process of sorting out [the]
>nomenclature" sounds promising, but who is to do this?
>Paul van Rijckevorsel
>Utrecht, NL

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