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

Jim Croft jim.croft at gmail.com
Wed Sep 2 00:23:53 CDT 2009

I am getting quite worried about all this 'sanitization' of authorish
strings as though it has some sort of nomenclatural, taxonomic or
operational validity.  The author and date are not part of the name -
they are attributes of a particular use of the name.

Furthermore, what is really important is not the author's name but the
person.  Authors, like taxa, are also victims of homonymy and
synonymy...  I would argeu that the identity of the person who created
a name or combination is totally relevant.  Their name on the other
hand is merely indicative.

The author string does not point to the original publication. It
'hints' at what the original publication might have been and it
'suggests' clarification where there 'might' be ambiguity.

Botanists tried to get around this with content 'standards' for author
abbreviations, but there is nothing to stop you making up your own or
using the name of the author in full.  Using a match on an author name
string to imply an actual person is at best a well informed (or
perhaps even not so) guess.

Maybe the name match hit rate is going to be fairly high?  >> 95%?
Will we know which 95%?  How much 'error' is going to be acceptable?
Some of our application of plant and animal names involve legislation
and the application of law.  In these situations fuzziness does not
come into it and the allowable error is zero.  We have to be quite
specific about the taxon concept behind the use of the taxon name; and
as part of this we have o be quite specific about the *person* behind
the concept, however they are named in an author string.

And then there all he historical uses of the name.  You can not
correct these because to do so is to add meaning that was not there in
the original.  You can of course create a new one, as long as it is
flagged as a subsequent interpretation.


On Wed, Sep 2, 2009 at 11:48 AM, Francisco
Welter-Schultes<fwelter at gwdg.de> wrote:
> Dan,
> well, one of the most important functions of authorities in
> zoological names is pointing to the original description of a name.
>> 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.
> The identity of the person who actually established the name is of
> secondary importance. It is nomenclaturally irrelevant. This is why
> initials can be removed without problems. A taxonomist does not need
> to care about who exactly was the person. Some are interested in
> that, they like to know exactly which person established which
> name, some do not care and use authors just as if they were arbitrary
> combinations of letters forming part of a compound identifier. This
> is a question of personal preferences.
>> In the case that the nomenclature system has flaws, is it up to the
>> bioinformatics to fix them? (this is an honest question)
> Actually zoological nomenclature has indeed the problem that nothing
> is ruled concerning spellings and initials of authors in zoological
> names. In such a case I would say yes, bioinformatics can
> establish some rules or best practices on their own account to help
> themselves.
> It would be better if taxonomists would solve these problems on their
> own initiatives, but most are not aware of the problem of variant
> spellings since it occurs in remote (for them) fields. Some pressure
> or feedback from the bioinformatics side can be useful, since part
> of the job of taxonomists is to provide a service (names that can
> be used for some purposes) for a broader community.
> Francisco
> University of Goettingen, Germany
> www.animalbase.org
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Jim Croft ~ jim.croft at gmail.com ~ +61-2-62509499 ~
... in pursuit of the meaning of leaf ...
... 'All is leaf' ('Alles ist Blatt') - Goethe

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