names vs. "names" (was: Names for BioDiv Informatics)

Robin Leech releech at TELUSPLANET.NET
Wed Feb 9 07:36:58 CST 2005


And if you do not believe what Paul writes below, consider
that august ornithological organization, the American Audubon
Union - it has forgotten about scientific names to the point
where only Capitalized common names are used, e.g., the
American Robin; Black-capped Chicadee.

I do not know how far outside North America the AAU has
influence, but I do know that the N.Am. editors of scientific
journals comply with the AAU request for capital letters.  This
does not happen in spiders, insects, mammals or other groups,
all of which use the scientific names followed, often by the
common name in lower case e.g., Atrax robustus, the
funnel-web spider, or Canis lupus, the wolf.

The use of Common Names only has, of course, caused some
lumping problems, esp. regarding the Slate-grey Junco and a
number of other "species".

Robin Leech
.
----- Original Message -----
From: "Paul van Rijckevorsel" <dipteryx at FREELER.NL>
To: <TAXACOM at LISTSERV.NHM.KU.EDU>
Sent: Wednesday, February 09, 2005 2:10 AM
Subject: Re: names vs. "names" (was: Names for BioDiv Informatics)


> From: Dave Remsen <dremsen at MBL.EDU>
>> Vernacular names are a primary gateway to
> biological information by the majority of humanity.  A
> well-defined vernacular concept provides the scientific
> community with an opportunity to engage them  (We
> conservatively estimate 4 million+ vernacular names).
>
>> We have been advocating a layered informatics architecture
> for some time now for the simple reason is that a.) it
> works and b.) it might allow us to survive.
>
>> I see at least three separate layers.  Starting at the
> bottom.
>
>> 1. A generalized biological name service (NameBank or
> something like it):  Broad enough to account for all forms
> of an inclusive consensus names definition with sufficient
> disambiguating attributes.  All scientific and vernacular
> names, OTUs, objective synonymy.  There are millions of
> these.   All attributes are known facts.   Start real
> simple.  What are the minimum things we would all agree
> on.  Stop there.  Draw line.  Build that.
>
> ***
> Actually, this very strongly reminds me of an attitude all too often found
> among the compilers of databases.
> "Yes, we know this name will be erroneous. Yes, we realize that including
> it
> in the database will perpetuate and propagate the error. However, if it
> was
> once used in a book (even if in clear error) we are including it. We
> realize
> this means the world will go to hell in a handbasket, but we don't care.
> As
> long as as our database is 'complete' we are happy."
>
> This "first layer" is the step where relevant information is excluded.
> If too much information is excluded (i.e. just the minimum is recorded)
> the
> database will have to be thrown out as error-riddled and unusable once it
> is
> complete (but it won't be thrown out, it will be there forever as an
> excuse
> never to do it right). I am beginning to despair of databases (unless
> built
> from a solid taxonomic basis).
>
> Paul van Rijckevorsel
> Utrecht, NL
>




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