[Taxacom] Technical question

Spies, Martin spies at zi.biologie.uni-muenchen.de
Wed Mar 18 04:53:43 CDT 2009

Bob Mesibov wrote:

>What I was trying to understand is the nature of lectotype/paralectotype. Are they
>the whole animals represented by the bits, or just the bits?
I won't claim to have an exhaustive answer to this question (though 
exhausting my reply may be). It might be a good idea to ask for opinions 
from acting ICZN commissioners via the ICZN listserver (please see 

The Code' glossary defines "specimen" as "an example of an animal, or a 
fossil or work of an animal, or of a part of these. See Article 72.5 for 
the kinds of specimen eligible to be name-bearing types of nominal 
species-group nominal taxa."

The Article mentioned above says (among many more things):
"72.5. Eligibility as name-bearing types. Only the following are 
eligible to be a name-bearing type, or part of a name-bearing type, of a 
nominal species-group taxon:
72.5.1. an animal, or any part of an animal, or an example of the 
fossilized work of an animal, or of the work of an extant animal if the 
name based on it was established before 1931;"
"72.5.5. a preparation for microscope examination (e.g. a "type slide") 
containing one or more individual organisms, in which the name-bearing 
types are clearly indicated and identifiable."

 From this, it seems that the restriction you thought of (to a single 
set of genitalia and/or wings) would be 'legal' under the current Code.

>With syntypes the situation is much clearer: all the bits are syntypes.
I'm not sure that this statement can stand as is. It seems possible 
(theoretically at least) for an original author to restrict the syntype 
series to fewer than all available body parts of the individual animals 
represented in the series, provided that he/she does so explicitly.

>*If* a lectotype is selected in my hypothetical case, then either
>- it's the whole animal, but we don't know which bits go with which, so
>we must select one bit of that whole animal, and what about the other,
>unidentifiable bits?
>- it's the one bit selected, in which case what about the other,
>unidentifiable bits?
It looks to me like the lectotype consists of (is limited to) the 
part(s) of the animal so fixed by the author who validly fixes the 
lectotype. All other parts (of the same or other individual previous 
syntype animals) automatically become paralectotypes, regardless of 
whether or not the author states so explicitly.

Personally, however, I would resort to such restriction only if 
circumstances rule out all alternatives. Wherever possible, I would fix 
all preserved parts of an individual animal as the name-bearing type. 
The authors of the Code seem to be of the same opinion, if the following 
Code Article is any indication:

"73.1.5. If a subsequent author finds that a holotype which consists of 
a set of components (e.g. disarticulated body parts) is not derived from 
an individual animal, the extraneous components may, by appropriate 
citation, be excluded from the holotype (material may be excluded from a 
hapantotype if it is found to contain components representing more than 
one taxon [Art.73.3.2])."

>I'm glad I didn't go into law. Issues like this might have worried me
>every day.
With nomenclatural 'law', one should never forget that the overriding 
principle (see the Code's preamble) always remains the "stability and 
universality" of nomenclature. I (and others) interpret this as a call 
to maintaining the nomenclatural status quo wherever that is possible 
without unequivocally clear violations of the currently effective Code 
(and, of course, within the separate framework of the corresponding 
taxonomy). Wherever I think the Code is unclear or leaves leeway to 
decide one way or the other, I choose the way that best preserves stability.


Martin Spies
Zoologische Staatssammlung Muenchen

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