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

Frederick W Schueler bckcdb at istar.ca
Thu Jun 18 11:17:25 CDT 2009

McClelland, Donald wrote:

>> The Codes ensure that every name is unique. Given that a name is unique
>> without the authors' names, just what is the advantage of citing the 
>> ultimate author of a name, rather than current revisor whose concept of 
>> the taxon is meant? 

> We must know the "ultimate" (original) author of a name because names
> are linked to type specimens.  Without this link, all sorts of confusion
> in the application of a name can follow as I'm sure you are aware.
> Linking names to types is the basis of modern taxonomy and for good
> reason.  Also, The Codes of course have rules to prevent homonyms (at
> least within kingdom), but that doesn't mean homonyms didn't/don't get
> into the literature.  Using authors' names prevents confusion when
> dealing with this situation.   

* I know this is the argument that's used for citing authors, but what 
I'm asking is how citing the original author (or, in botany, a potpourri 
of authors of epithets) is better than citing a recent revisor whose 
species concept is being used by the author? Even if one gave the 
specimen number of the type specimen (a much more direct tie to the 
type), what one is really referencing in using a name is the species 
concept you, as an author, endorse at the time of writing.

Any set of names from a recent revisor will be free from homonyms, and 
will include synonymies and lots of other user-friendly features that 
won't be present in an original description (which isn't adequately 
cited in ordinary practice).

The kind of useage I'm suggesting is something similar to: "Names and 
species concepts follow Cody & Britton (1989 [Ferns of Canada]), except 
in the case of Dryopteris squechili, which we regard, with Donald (2009) 
as an autotretraploid..."

Scientific citation is supposed to be to a chain of sequentially 
justified publications, and while I'm as much of a fan of the 18th 
century as anyone, I think it's time to recognize that conventional 
citation of authors' names is a practice which made sense in the 18th 
century, but which has been overwhelmed by the subsequent development of 
the scientific literature.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS: this is a parroting of an argument first learned from 
Bill Brown, at Cornell, in the 1960s.

             Bishops Mills Natural History Centre
           Frederick W. Schueler & Aleta Karstad
        RR#2 Bishops Mills, Ontario, Canada K0G 1T0
     on the Smiths Falls Limestone Plain 44* 52'N 75* 42'W
       (613)258-3107 <bckcdb at istar.ca> http://pinicola.ca

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