[Taxacom] Citing taxonomical works (was: decline and fall oftaxonomy)

Alan S. Weakley weakley at unc.edu
Thu Jun 18 07:24:10 CDT 2009

Citing the source of the taxonomy followed is truly critical in our science.
It is much more important than citing the actual author of the name.

If I see "Andropogon virginicus Linnaeus" in a species list, I don't know if
the lister is using that name in a very narrow, narrow, broad, or very broad
circumscription.  The only way to have that name be unambiguously meaningful
is to peg its circumscription or concept to that of a particular monograph,
taxonomic treatment, or flora.  Andropogon virginicus Linnaeus in the sense
of Campbell (1981) -- ahhhh, now I know what that means, a rather narrow
circumscription excluding entities sometimes included in A. virginicus:
"glomeratus", "hirsutior", "glaucopsis", "tenuispatheus".  In the sense of
Weakley (2009) means a still narrower concept, also excluding "capillipes"
and "dealbatus".  In the sense of Radford, Ahles & Bell (1968) means a very
broad circumscription, including all of the entities above and then some.

Without a citation of the taxonomy followed, "A. virginicus Linnaeus" may
mean 1/9th, or 3/9ths, or 9/9s of the "pie" of the named entities in this
group.  The safest thing then is to assume the broadest possible
interpretation.  Or, one is left to trying to deduce the concept followed
from internal or external evidence.  "Hmm, he was working in North Carolina
in 1980, so probably he was using the concepts of Radford, Ahles, & Bell
(1968), the usual taxonomic standard at that time and place, except that he
also listed A. capillipes in his species list, which Radford, Ahles, & Bell
(168) lumped into A. virginicus, so maybe he following the concepts of
Godfrey & Wooten (1979), the manual of Southeastern US wetland plants, which
DID recognize A. capillipes, or maybe he was just using his own eclectic

I am about 3/4's done in the process of "concept mapping" the Southeastern
United States vascular plant flora (ca. 9000 taxa) using all major floristic
treatments used in the region and over 2500 monographic and other important
taxonomic treatments.  This then allows one to combine information from
different sources and know where there are ambiguities and where there are
not.  Without such an effort, when one combines data (say from different
state flora checklists, county dot maps, National Park checklists,
ecological plot data) associated with the name "Andropogon virginicus
Linnaeus," one gets junk, as some of the data is referring to a 1/9th pie
slice and some to the whole pie.  

Alan Weakley, Curator and Adjunct Assistant Professor
University of North Carolina Herbarium (NCU), North Carolina Botanical
Department of Biology and Curriculum for the Environment and Ecology
UNC-Chapel Hill
Campus Box 3280, 419 Coker Hall
Chapel Hill NC 27599-3280

-----Original Message-----
From: taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
[mailto:taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu] On Behalf Of Maarten
Sent: Thursday, June 18, 2009 6:15 AM
To: taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
Subject: [Taxacom] Citing taxonomical works (was: decline and fall

Dear David and Taxacommers,

Authors of biological articles should cite the works used by them in the
material and methods part of their article. Other methods used previously
are often cited, but the use of a taxonomic work with which they have
identified their specimens is usually completely ignored.
I ask all journal editors to change this in their policy - author guides, as
well as citing species names properly.

All electronic efforts in taxonomy are excellent and it is exactly what is
needed to improve our science, but I agree also that there is little revenue
for the authors: e.g. contributions to projects as EoL, ToL, GBIF etc do not
bring any revenue for the author, nor will scratchpads. There is already the
idea that knowledge is free and should be available to all, but who will
compile and review this information? One cannot make an encyclopaedia
without paying for the contents.


Date: Wed, 17 Jun 2009 16:04:28 -0500
From: "Dr. David Campbell" <amblema at bama.ua.edu>
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] decline and fall of taxonomy
To: taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
Message-ID: <1245272668.4a395a5c4f507 at bamamail.ua.edu>
Content-Type: text/plain; charset=ISO-8859-1

> A simple benefit would be (and this is of course not the sole 
> solution), if journals would demand proper citation for scientific 
> names, instead of inline citation with abbreviated authors as nowadays 
> usually is the case in botany.

Perhaps a higher proportion of recent papers would get cited if there was
some requirement to cite what reference was used to identify the species,
rather than the original author.  This might also highlight the need for
taxonomists if the basis for the identification is not so good.

Dr. David Campbell
425 Scientific Collections Building
Department of Biological Sciences
Biodiversity and Systematics
University of Alabama, Box 870345
Tuscaloosa AL 35487-0345  USA

Dr Maarten Christenhusz
Flora Mesoamericana project

Department of Botany
The Natural History Museum
Cromwell Road
London SW7 5BD
United Kingdom

tel: [44] (0) 207 942 5108


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