Nomenclator Zoologicus

Mon Jan 3 13:54:25 CST 2005

Wolfgang Lorenz wrote:
> the online version of NEAVE's Nomenclator Zoologicus (via the uBio website) is
> certainly among the outstanding achievements of last year, congratulations!
> However, since it probably will be consulted by many more users than the book
> version, wouldn't it be helpful to point to the pitfalls and limits of this
> source?

I agree, and would like to draw attention to a related issue.

Following Dr. Remsen's TAXACOM announcement a month ago, I took a
cursory look at some data in the Nomenclator Zoologicus (NZ) relevant
to the family of dipterous insects I work on, and found that a number
of such data require corrections similar to those mentioned by Wolfgang.

Obviously, some such errors are unavoidable initially in a work of
this magnitude and complexity, and I sincerely commend those
responsible for the database for any efforts in quality control. Dr.
Remsen's message was seeking the assistance of TAXACOM members with
such reviewing, which was to take place by assigning a continuous,
alphabetical section of NZ pages to each reviewer.

I realize that the latter method may result from more or less
unavoidable logistical constraints. However, I have serious doubts
whether it can achieve the level of quality assurance that would
render the database a truly authoritative and reliable source of data.
In the group I work on, a significant share of the necessary
corrections could be identified and performed only by a specialist in
the group, with comprehensive knowledge of the relevant literature. I
imagine the same is true for any group in zoology. The likelihood
seems extremely low that any colleague reviewing an alphabetical
section of the data is sufficiently familiar with all the animal
groups he is encountering names from.

Consequently, I have offered Dr. Remsen my services in the form of
reviewing all the NZ data relevant to 'my' dipteran family.
Unfortunately, the practical difficulty there is that the database
does not seem to allow me to extract those and only those data
(approx. 600 genus-group names), as a query by family within Diptera
does not seem possible. This probably is also the reason why I have
not received a reply to my offer.

But returning to the concerns voiced by Wolfgang:
If the above is an accurate description of logistical problems with
the production and operation of the NZ database, and if these problems
cannot be overcome without efforts too large to be expended, then all
publications associated with the database should come with clear
disclaimers expressly cautioning zoologists against uncritical copying
from NZ.

After all, tools such as the NZ are supposed to (ob)serve the
stability of nomenclature, a goal hardly advanced by the worldwide
copying of errors from a seemingly authoritative source, no matter how
inadvertently the latter acquired those errors.


Martin Spies
c/o Zoologische Staatssammlung Muenchen

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