[Taxacom] Read... and believe...

Doug Yanega dyanega at ucr.edu
Fri Sep 4 13:27:32 CDT 2009

Richard Petit wrote:

>I hope someone will post an explanation of: "If a specimen is named 
>but the taxonomic classification used in the naming is not specified 
>then it can't be know which taxon (of the multiple possible taxon 
>concepts for that name) it has been identified to."

Actually, that is exactly how it works in real life. I cannot tell 
you how many times I've come across museum specimens with an ID label 
bearing a species name which could have any of a number of possible 
meanings depending on who did the ID, in what year, and which 
key/revision they used. Most often, it is old specimens IDed prior to 
subsequent revisionary work, that were never re-IDed. The other 
similar large subset is taxa with formally recognized subspecies, but 
for which an ID label is binomial - does that mean the IDer knew it 
was the nominate subspecies, or does it mean that they didn't believe 
in using subspecies names? Sometimes, it was the work of a taxonomist 
who did not examine type material, and therefore wrongly - and 
consistently - applied incorrect species names to specimens they 
examined, leaving a trail of mis-named specimens in every collection 
they visited (commonly thereby "contaminating" other specimens, when 
curators or other taxonomists use comparisons to *those* specimens to 
make IDs rather than using keys/descriptions).

This sort of thing - not accepting ID labels at face value - is part 
and parcel of the curatorial side of specimen-based research, and 
Hyam is only pointing out the obvious. Yes, it's sad, but it's *true*.


Doug Yanega        Dept. of Entomology         Entomology Research Museum
Univ. of California, Riverside, CA 92521-0314        skype: dyanega
phone: (951) 827-4315 (standard disclaimer: opinions are mine, not UCR's)
   "There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness
         is the true method" - Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chap. 82

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