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

Richard Pyle deepreef at bishopmuseum.org
Fri Sep 4 14:19:03 CDT 2009

I have to say I agree with Doug on this one.  I haven't read Roger's
full-context blog post (I will at some point), but I'm pretty sure I know
exactly what Roger is on about (we had many discussions of that sort while
drafting TCS), and like Doug, I sadly have to acknowledge that what Roger
says in the quoted bloog post is correct.

The good news, and not represented in the quoted part of Roger's blog post,
is that he's talking about it in the context of a much higher level of
precision of concept circumscription comparisons than what most taxonomists
(or anyone else for that matter) need to operate.  Most of the time, the
name alone will do.  A bunch of the remaining cases can be satisfactorily
dealt with via gross qualifiers (e.g., "sensu stricto" vs. "sensu lato").
And pretty-much all cases can ultimately be dealt with via secondary concept
mapping assertions (i.e., "Pyle 1995 asserts that the circumscription of Aus
bus Smith 1955 sec Jones 1980 is congruent to the circumscription of Aus bus
Smith 1955 sec Brown 1990"); which, translated into somewhat intelligible
English, would be something like "According to Pyle 1995, Jones 1980 and
Brown 1990 were talking about the same taxon concept when they each referred
to Aus bus Smith 1955".

It's a bit fuzzy and subjective, I agree.  But to quote the farmer in the
movie "Babe" (which my son was watching yesterday), "That'll do, pig.
That'll do."  In other words, "close enough".


> -----Original Message-----
> From: taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu 
> [mailto:taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu] On Behalf Of Doug Yanega
> Sent: Friday, September 04, 2009 8:28 AM
> Subject: Re: [Taxacom] Read... and believe...
> 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*.
> Sincerely,
> -- 
> 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)
>               http://cache.ucr.edu/~heraty/yanega.html
>    "There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness
>          is the true method" - Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chap. 82
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