Errors = phantom names on the Internet

colin favret crf at UIUC.EDU
Thu Mar 30 09:15:14 CST 2006

Hello everyone,

I have to agree with Steve here. Specimen database managers have
neither the expertise nor the resources to check the nomenclature of
millions of specimens in their charge, many of which are misidentified,
mislabeled, cryptically labeled, or have determination labels with
misspellings, misatributions, manuscript names, etc. Yes, a non-expert
can search an on-line specimen database and find and use a record's
phantom name. However, he or she can also go visit a museum, search the
collection, and find and use a specimen's phantom name. Until such a
time as that name is published and becomes part of the permanent
record, as opposed to being in ephemeral Internet or database records
or on impermanent collection labels (in the sense that specimen
determinations are refutable hypotheses), there is not much that can or
should be done about it.

Cheerio, colin, specimen database manager

Colin Favret, Insect Collection Manager
Illinois Natural History Survey
1816 S Oak Street
Champaign IL 61820, U.S.A.
crf at

On 30 Mar 2006, at 0:00, Automatic digest processor wrote:

> Date:    Wed, 29 Mar 2006 10:06:35 -0800
> From:    Stephen Gaimari <SGaimari at CDFA.CA.GOV>
> Subject: Re: Errors = phantom names on the Internet
> 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
> misapplicati=
> on 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.
> Cheers,
> Steve

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