[Taxacom] New species descriptions based on only 1 specimen

Geoff Read g.read at niwa.co.nz
Tue Sep 30 17:10:21 CDT 2008

>>> On 1/10/2008 at 8:17 a.m., Steve Lingafelter
<steve.lingafelter at ars.usda.gov>
> Hi Taxacomers,
> I realize this is a tired debate, but nevertheless...
> I'm interested in some current opinions.  I am at the final stages of
> collection for a field guide to Dominican Republic
> I've got a handful of very charismatic new species which are sadly,
after 10
> expeditions (4 by our group; several by Carnegie Museum and
> represented by only 1 specimen each.
> I want to describe them and have them available for the field guide
but I
> realize this is not an ideal situation (and I believe not accepted by
> journals).  Am I making a mountain out of a mole-hill, and should I
> describe the darned things?
> What would you do?

No, it's certainly not mountain out of mole-hill. It's a serious issue.
I wouldn't never do it, but best avoided in annelids, the group I work
with, because of meristic and developmental changes, and also noting the
difficulty of borrowing a holotype with no paratype. Also there is the
possibility a strange individual is a teratology and not new at all. 
Incomplete tail-less specimens are a particular problem for later
workers when described - as has been done frequently, but against that
there are families in which complete individuals from offshore benthos
are almost never collected - can't just ignore a whole family. 

Here's a paper discussing species description standards which inter
alia addresses the single specimen problem:

Mąkol, J. ; Gabryś, G. 2005:  Intuition or fixed criteria – about
standards in species description.  Genus 16(4): 503-511.




 Geoff Read <g.read at niwa.co.nz>

More information about the Taxacom mailing list