Errors = phantom names on the Internet

Stephen Gaimari SGaimari at CDFA.CA.GOV
Wed Mar 29 10:06:35 CST 2006

One problem no one has yet pointed out, unless I missed part of the thread :-), is the vast numbers of simple misspellings (of species, genera, authors, etc.), never published combinations, incorrect author attributions (not misspellings, simply incorrect), etc., that are in databases all over the web. Most of these databases are not necessarily of the BDWD type (nomenclatural, authoritative), but are rather, for example, things like collection inventories, faunal lists, etc. Nonetheless, these are databases that are available to the public, and are potentially viewed as being "authoritative". In most of those cases, when errors are discovered, they are simply corrected - no archiving of the misspelling or misapplication of the author or of the combination. As Susan said, you don't know how many other databases something has already been entered into. Well I would say so what? It was not in a publication - it was in an ephemeral, changeable web-based resource, and if that is the source people are using to index or catalog names, the future problems are going to be far worse than this discussion suggests, because then it will enter the published literature. A further nightmare is people using things like web-based faunal lists (that often have misidentifications, use of invalid names, etc.) to catalog the distribution of a species, for example. But that's a bit off topic (sorry). In any case, these phantom names seem to be little different from gross misspellings that have never been published, and as such, should just be deleted from the databases in my opinion.

Dr. Stephen D. Gaimari
Senior Insect Biosystematist, Supervisor
Co-Curator, California State Collection of Arthropods

Plant Pest Diagnostics Lab
California Department of Food and Agriculture
3294 Meadowview Road
Sacramento, CA 95832-1448, USA

916-262-1131 (tel.)
916-262-1190 (fax)
sgaimari at 

>>> "Susan B. Farmer" <sfarmer at GOLDSWORD.COM> 03/29/06 06:54AM >>>
Quoting Knut Rognes <knut at ROGNES.NO>:

> The only "source of this name" is some database where this wholly
> bogus phantasy phantom name never should have been entered in the
> first place. It has never been in print. The source of the name is
> presented as "Rognes, 1985" in the combination "Pollenia pseudobscura
> Rognes, 1985". This "source" has nothing to do with the publication
> Rognes 1985, where another available name is presented - Pollenia
> pseudorudis Rognes, 1985 [correctly entered in all the databases we
> are talking about], the name that was misread by the person entering
> data.
> If the bogus record is deleted and someone, years from now, looks
> into some non-scientific Wikipedia or other web-publication and finds
> the phantom name Pollenia pseudobscura Rognes, 1985 and nowhere else
> [e.g not in any of the NameBank lists], they should take the trouble
> of looking up the real literary source and find that it is not there.
> This will be no "fruitless search for that publication" becaus the
> publication Rognes, 1985 exists, but not the phantom name. Which is
> all good. Better deleting the record than risking a lot of faunal
> lists, biodiversity bogus, etc extracted from the databases by
> web-freaks. Even risking the name might enter the printed world.

Not necessarily.  As thorough as we are at entering names into our
databases, there is always the chance that there's some obscure
publication that we've overlooked.  Perhaps it's only a mention in a
synonymy list (granted, a nomen nudum, but at the time, validly
published).  There's always the chance that a researcher, not finding
"Rognes 1985" will think it was a typo:  Maybe it was 1935 -- or 1986.
Or, in the case of a name that I'm trying to track down (it is in
Tropicos), it's an early 19th century name.

One point that somebody else made is that yea, you can delete it from
your database, and you can delete it from Wikipedia, but you don't know
how many other databases it's already been entered into.  Granted, you
have no control over what The Rest of The World does with a list of
names, but the name *is* out there.

I agree that the name should be retained and flagged as "phantom,"
"bogus" or whatever label that you choose to put on it.

Susan Farmer
sfarmer at
University of Tennessee
Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

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