Non type specimens

Thu Sep 2 10:39:19 CDT 2004

A significant amount of the replies (including my own) to Livio's
question remains speculation as long as we don't even know what realm
of the living world his organisms come from, thus which nomenclature
Code and standard of practice applies.

However, regardless of the above, I don't believe it is helpful to
post an opinion that comes across like authoritative advice when
instead it is imprecise in the facts and based on an outdated source.

Livio's questions were two (CAPITALS by myself):
>> 1) Is it USUAL to use, besides holotype and paratypes, morphometric and
>> meristic characters of nontype specimens in the description of a new
>> species?
>> 2) Is the description VALID?

Assuming here that he is dealing with animal specimens, thus that the
ICZN Code of nomenclature applies, then - with all due respect - John
Bruner's reply is not answering either of these questions. In
addition, his quote from the zoological Code does not identify that
source, is based on a long outdated version (edition 1 or 2 from the
1960s, whereas edition 4 of 1999 is what's relevant now), and even
that source is quoted incompletely. I'm afraid that's at least as
"incorrect" procedure under the circumstances as the one he brandishes.

The relevant Article 72.4.1 in the ICZN (1999) Code reads:
"The type series of a nominal species-group taxon consists of all the
specimens included by the author in the new nominal taxon (whether
directly or by bibliographic reference), except any that the author
expressly excludes from the type series [Art. 72.4.6], or refers to as
distinct variants (e.g. by name, letter or number), or doubtfully
attributes to the taxon."

Returning to Livio's questions, John's label "incorrect" falls right
between 'unusual' (question 1) and 'invalid' (question 2), thereby
missing both marks and ending up as irrelevant.
In my opinion, question two is much more significant, and there the
answer is that the practice Livio and John describe does NOT render
the name of a taxon so described unavailable or invalid in the sense
of the ICZN Code.

I also do not believe that John's blanket label "incorrect" for any
and all such cases is correct for the multitude of possible
circumstances Livio's general, unspecific question can cover. Let's
assume that a description and the meristic data given in it include
specimens the author considers intraspecific variants, then to exclude
these from the type series is fully correct under Code Article 72.4.

Bottom line: The specific circumstances of any individual case must be
known before a scientific result of validity/invalidity can be achieved.

Having written all the above, I do, of course, sympathize with the
motivation for John's message. However, whether such practice is
unusual, "incorrect", or just plain nonsense - all of this is
irrelevant to nomenclature, and I don't believe we will improve on it
if our own statements are equally imprecise and unfit for scientific
reproduction by others.

Best regards

Martin Spies
c/o Zoologische Staatssammlung Muenchen

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