[Taxacom] FW: formation of zoological names with Mc, Mac, et

Dan Lahr daniel.lahr at gmail.com
Tue Sep 1 11:51:42 CDT 2009

Thanks for the clarification Francisco.

This is perhaps an indication that the nomenclature system can't deal
with the uniqueness issue in the first place, using initials is just
an addition of information that doesn't completely solve the problem,
and might perhaps introduce new problems - such as the one you pointed
out that databases that don't use initials can't talk with databases
that use them.

The correct year in this exemplary case pointed you in the right
direction that the author really wasn't the original C. Pfeiffer,
which is what matters for taxonomists.

In the case that the nomenclature system has flaws, is it up to the
bioinformatics to fix them? (this is an honest question)

Kind regards,


On Tue, Sep 1, 2009 at 7:48 AM, Francisco
Welter-Schultes<fwelter at gwdg.de> wrote:
> Daniel,
> use of initials in zoology.
>> "I have another funny example on the use of initials.
>> www.faunaeur.org currently records a species as Tandonia nigra (C.
>> Pfeiffer 1849). There is an error in this string. The species was
>> spelled correctly, but it was not described by C. Pfeiffer in 1849.
>> Now try to find out the error. Carl Pfeiffer was an important
>> malacologist and published in the 1820s. L. Pfeiffer was even more
>> important and published in the mid-1800s, including several papers
>> in 1849. K. L. Pfeiffer published in the 1950s, also in malacology."
>> Is it the year or the author that is wrong? It must have been either
>> described by C. Pfeiffer earlier and got a new combination by maybe
>> another Pfeiffer in 1849, or it was described by one of the other
>> two Pfeiffers (L. or K.L.).
> A new combination would not be recorded in zoology, this would very
> unlikely be an error source.
> What you suspected was exactly what I had suspected - either the
> initial of C. Pfeiffer was correct and the year wrong or the inital
> wrong and the year correct. I spent much time unsuccessfully trying
> to find the species using this strategy.
> I found the original description by pure coincidence when screening
> articles of a journal volume for a completely different purpose. The
> initial C. Pfeiffer was correct, but the year was 1894. There was an
> article in that journal by an author whose name was given as "C.
> Pfeiffer". I don't know what C. means. The two C. Pfeiffers were
> different persons. It is possible that the younger C. Pfeiffer never
> published anything else, and that nobody ever got to know ehat "C."
> meant.
> It is also possible that the database provider (a malacological
> expert) knew that Carl Pfeiffer did not live in the 1890s, and
> "corrected" 1894 to the earlier date 1849 intentionally.
> If only a "Pfeiffer 1849" would have been given in the taxon
> name author string in the database, without initials, I would have
> searched with much more tolerance. For example I would never have
> suspected that Carl Pfeiffer could have described this species, the
> 1820s were too early for such a species.
> Francisco
> University of Goettingen, Germany
> www.animalbase.org
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Daniel Lahr
PhD candidate
Organismic and Evolutionary Biology
U Massachusetts- Amherst
319 Morrill Science Center, Amherst
Amherst, MA 01003

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