[Taxacom] New monkey from Brazil

Luis A. Ruedas ruedas at pdx.edu
Wed May 17 16:55:31 CDT 2006

One is at times tempted to be overly critical, but I am trying to keep 
my "flaming fingers" in check.  This is neither science nor anything 
that would pass for it, but rather something perhaps akin to tourism.  
On the basis of photographs, I might be tempted to describe Bigfoot or 
Nessie.  Or again, why is /Ameranthropoides loysi/, from a photograph 
taken in 1920, not currently recognized as a valid species?  Indeed, the 
Jones et al report cited below (2005, Science 308: 1161-1164) precisely 
serves to demonstrate the monumental errors potentially ensuing from 
such hastily prepared and well meaning but altogether insufficient 
travails based on photographs: in a report published in the same journal 
on 11 May (http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/rapidpdf/1125631v1.pdf [DOI: 
10.1126/science.1125631]) Davenport et al erected a new genus, 
/Rungwecebus/, for what had been reported as /Lophocebus/.  The trees 
published based on the molecular data (from a specimen recovered after 
it had been killed by a farmer) demonstrate that there is no especially 
close relationship between the two genera.  The new species of 
/Lophocebus/ [sic] was based on photographs and recordings.  Note that 
the published photograph of the paratype (p. 1162) is essentially 
useless for identification purposes: blurry and out of focus.  Not quite 
as bad as the images of the Ivory billed woodpecker also published in 
Science.  In addition, the diagnosis for the species states (among other 
things) that the center of the ventrum is off-white.  This feature is 
not visible in the photograph of the "holotype" (also on page 1162) nor 
on the paratype, nor are the eyelids visible in either ("eyelids black, 
not contrasting with color of face").  How about: "Measurements.  None 
available."  And there is no supporting online material.  This is not a 
description, it's a farce: a slap in the face to the purported quality 
of Science as a journal, and the often high quality of the articles 
habitually to be found within its pages.  It might once have been said 
that this type of description is a glaring mistake into which a more 
dedicated taxonomic journal might not have fallen, and yet--we have the 
instance of the Zootaxa article cited below.  A few hairs, or a skin 
clip from the ear or elsewhere removed from the "new" South American 
/Cebus/ might have shown whether it was indeed new, or a population 
displaying aberrant coloration due to some particular regional 
circumstance.  Hair and skin is evidence (in response to Fitzhugh) that 
minimally can be translated into DNA sequences.  A photograph is worth 
no more than the electrons in (with?) which it is stored (or negative or 
slide, whichever the individual prefers).  Despite my relative lack of 
skill in Photoshop, I am sometimes amazed at what I am able to produce 
using image manipulation software--what about someone more talented than 
I with such software (a category extensively populated)?  I have some 
additional thoughts about a population of 18, but I find myself getting 
increasingly agitated, and this is probably a good place to end.

Whither taxonomy [pun intended]?


Luis A. Ruedas
Department of Biology
Portland State University

Richard Jensen wrote:

>I'm not sure how to read parts of your note.  Are you concerned that there is no physical (dead animal) type specimen?  Given the circumstances under which the new species was discovered, I believe the authors have been quite prudent.  I don't see this as a reaction to animal rights activists; just a reasonable way to deal with the circumstances.  If I came across what I thought was a new species of plant, consisting of a single population of 18 individuals, I wouldn't take any whole plant specimens.  If a photograph is sufficient to document that new species, then that's all that's necessary.
>Dick J
>Fabio Moretzsohn wrote:
>>Dear all
>>I visited the Zootaxa website and found out that a new species of monkey (Cebidae, genus Cebus) from northeastern Brazil was proposed a few days ago (Zootaxa 1200: 1-12, 11 May 2006, see below). I have not seen any mention of this in the mainstream news, but it is a significant discovery. And similarly to a recent new species of moneky from Africa (Jones et al, 2005, Science 308: 1161-1164), the holotype of the new Brazilian monkey, Cebus queirozi Mendes Pontes and Malta, 2006, was measured alive then released back in the wild. A paratype was photographed in the wild, and the description was based on the holotype and photographed paratype.
>>The authors found only a group of 18 individuals, living in a small area of disturbed secondary-growth forest and swamp, close to a sugar-cane plantation. The area has high endemism and many other species (one reptile, four butterflies, two gastropods, four amphibians and 11 trees) have recently beed described from the region. The new monkey has not been recorded from other areas surveyed, and the authors believe that it is an endangered species, hence no specimen was sacrificed. Unfortunatelly, no radio transmitter or other marking were used to track the monkeys in the wild, nor did blood, hair or scat samples or any invasive measures were taken, according to the paper.
>>I remember some discussion about the description of the African monkey at Taxacom (but I could not find it) and at ICZN-L (the thread "The illustrated monkey", apparently started by Geoff Read  10/20/2005). As suggested by Lynn Raw at ICZN-L (10/30/2005), this situation of new species descriptions based on live specimens or photographs may become more common as animal rights advocates and others increase their influence, and collections, especially of vertebrates, become increasingly more restricted.
>>Mendes Pontes et al. (2006) cite the example of Jones et al (2005) and Polaszek et al. (2005), which were based on the ICZN Article 73.1.4, "which allows the description of new taxa without the need for dead type specimens" (quote from the Zootaxa paper). Is it really what Art. 73.1.4 intended to mean? Is the door to specimen-less descriptions irreparably open?
>>And lastly, the new monkey was named Cebus queirozi, although the authors explain the name acknowledges the Queiroz family (landowners where the monkey lives); shouldn't the name then be "queirozorum"? My guess is that queirozi is more euphonic in Portuguese than queirozorum, but no explanation is given in the paper.
>>Fabio Moretzsohn, Ph.D.
>>Post Doctoral Research Associate
>>Harte Research Institute of Gulf of Mexico Studies
>>Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi
>>6300 Ocean Drive, Unit 5869
>>Corpus Christi, TX 78412-5869
>>Phone: (361) 825-3230
>>Fax: (361) 825-2050
>>fabio at falcon.tamucc.edu
>>Original description: Mendes Pontes, A.R., Malta A. and Asfora, P.H. 2006. A new species of capuchin monkey, genus Cebus Erxleben (Cebidae, Primates): found at the very brink of extinction in the Pernambuco Endemism Centre. Zootaxa 1200: 1-12.
>>Taxacom mailing list
>>Taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
>Richard J. Jensen              | tel: 574-284-4674
>Department of Biology      | fax: 574-284-4716
>Saint Mary's College         | e-mail: rjensen at saintmarys.edu
>Notre Dame, IN 46556    | http://www.saintmarys.edu/~rjensen
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