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

Jim Croft jim.croft at gmail.com
Sat Sep 5 01:12:53 CDT 2009

Thanks Francisco - you have perfectly described the problem we are
dealing with.  The way we do business at the moment, we have no way of
knowing what was going on in a taxonomists mind when they applied a
name to a specimen.   While not entirely meaningless, this makes it
very difficult to compare and link the identification assertions of
one taxonomist with another, or, the same taxonomist identifying
specimens at different times.

Most taxonomists (unfortunately, not all :) taxonomist don't just make
it up as they go when it comes to identification.  They carry around a
mind map based on their knowledge of the prevailing literature, use an
identification tool that is based on some preferred selection of the
prevailing literature, or use an existing comparative collection in
some preferred arrangement based on a preferred selection of the
prevailing literature.   If we know which of these was in their mind
when they make the identification we can circunscribe teh concept with
a bit more precision.

The moment you place your name on an identification you have made a
decision that the specimen fits within a particular taxon concept, one
of the many with the same name that are floating around in you mind to
chose from.  Our problem is that, based on the information provided,
we do not know which one you chose and we are left to make an informed
guess on which would have been the most likely, given what we might
know or assume of your experience or preference.  It could be argued
that this is our problem, not yours, but with communication, if there
is a problem, it is a problem for both sides.

Unless we can somehow document and map available concepts used in
identification assertions, any coupling we might make between
asserytions can only be loose.  It is an interesting challenge for us.

Concepts do not have to be published.  They can, and often are,
described over a cup of coffee or a beer.  These one's we are just
going to have to leave alone for a while... :)


On Sat, Sep 5, 2009 at 3:59 PM, Francisco
Welter-Schultes<fwelter at gwdg.de> wrote:
> Rich,
> When I identify a specimen, I tend to use various sources and build
> up my mind myself, I don't "follow" one single other source. I
> also would expect other scientists to do the same. A scientist must
> be able to have an independent opinion, as the result of having
> studied various sources. I could not apply this "sec." concept
> (taxonomic concept proposed by N. Franz, Roger Hyam and others) for
> my field (malacology). If I identify specimens from museum
> collections, I add my name and a date.
>> (or if it's a new circumscription, then they should at
>> least make a note of "sensu me, not yet published").
> In European malacology we have the case of the genus Oxychilus
> (Gastropoda), which was very well defined by Riedel 1998, based on
> a lot of scientific work, and which was distorted (several
> arbitrarily selected subgenera were elevated to genera) in a simple
> uncommented Central European checklist by Falkner et al. 2001. I am
> asking myself if you would call this a published concept (that
> deserves a "sec." authorship). Maybe yes. But the other (not
> Central European) species were of course not listed. So a name of a S
> European species is "implicitely" sec. Falkner et al. 2001? In
> real life people take the current generic name of S European
> species from www.faunaeur.org, they don't ask where the data were
> based on.
> 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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