[Taxacom] Type localities, Geo-coding, etc.

Thompson, Chris Chris.Thompson at ARS.USDA.GOV
Fri Jan 9 06:43:26 CST 2009

Yes, Geoff, 

One should ALWAYS properly document the basis of one's geo-coding of any
specimen record and provide an indication of the precision of the datum.
AND this especially critical for old type-locality.

But it is not only Linnaeus' wine cellar. When one digs into the history
of a name and the type it is based on, one frequently finds rather
precise information.

Another favorit example. The student of Linnaeus, who took over
Entomology after him, was Fabricius. In his first work, Systema
Entomologiae (1775) he described many new species as simply being from
"America. V. Rohr" Obviously he then thought that was good enough for
his purposes. But today if we check the history of "v. Rohr" we discover
that he was the Royal Architect stationed at St. Croix in the then
DANISH Virgin Island. Which is a much more precise definition for
"America v. Rohr."

The basic problem I find today is the younger workers usually do not
even bother the examine the original description, but if they do, they
simply stop and declare them useless as they have vague incomplete
information. And there are no IMPACT factors for digging into Ancient
history about earlier collectors and voyages of discovery, etc.

AND YES, most users never read nor understand the caveats provided with
scientific data. Again from our experience with the BDWD where we
provide an quality assurance measure with every record, we note that
virtually all users accept our information as the gospel truth! And
unfortunately experts never use our information as they already know the
truth! But gradually we are cleaning the data up.

Oh, well ... it is again Friday ... 

F. Christian Thompson
Systematic Entomology Lab., ARS, USDA
c/o Smithsonian Institution MRC-0169
PO Box 37012
Washington, D. C. 20013-7012
(202) 382-1800 voice
(202) 786-9422 fax
Chris.Thompson at ars.usda.gov 
www.diptera.org Diptera Website
-----Original Message-----
From: taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
[mailto:taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu] On Behalf Of Geoff Read
Sent: Thursday, January 08, 2009 9:22 PM
To: taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] Total number of name-bearing types

>>> "Thompson, Chris" <Chris.Thompson at ARS.USDA.GOV> 01/08/09 3:37 AM >>>

> [...] we can
> declare for common widespread species for which Linnaeus gave no
> locality information or only broad locality information, but for which
> the species does today occur in Sweden, then the proper geo-coding is
> the location of Linnaeus' home, etc. In the case of Musca cellaris,
> especially if Linnaeus had a wine cellar!

> [...] These are only two examples. The point is simply (at least for
> that there are already a number of solutions which are provided by the
> International Code of Zoological Nomenclature to resolve the
> type-locality of type of available Scientific names of animals. So, we
> can if we want fix at least a single point on the GBIF world-view for
> each and every valid species.

Yes, it would be so convenient to have that. A nice map with a little
on it for the type locality. But, lacking  the special circumstance of
Linnaeus and his wine cellar, one wants to do this without creating an
illusory value for the lat/long. So I feel, as much as I'd like to do it
in my own database of worms, there are  dangers in inventing a neat
georeference for a  truly vague locality indication such as 'Brazil',
'China', 'New Zealand' or  'Indian Ocean', (all places where likely the
typical European species describer of the 18-19th C had never been).
People will take the falsely precise location away with them to re-use
and, while the original database may have flagged the location as just a
best guess or a midpoint of a range, secondary users may not be so
meticulous. Thus the new 'fact' might take on a life of its own in
and maybe in a later generation of workers someone has to devote time to
disproving it, or it seriously misleads a revisor.

Has someone a recommendation on how to handle this issue?

Geoffrey B. Read, Ph.D.
Wellington, NEW ZEALAND
gread at actrix.gen.nz


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