[Taxacom] Drosophila melanogaster name change?
fwelter at gwdg.de
Fri Apr 9 06:25:21 CDT 2010
> The case can be solved by creating a mega-genus Drosophila
> containing many species, probably more than the currently included
> 1500 species, so D. melanogaster would keep its genus-species
> combination. This is the responsibility of taxonomists.
> Yes, that is an option, which would generate a genus with 2250+
> species, and with more than 100 secondary homonyms in need a new
> species name. Talk about a nightmare.....
Well, this is basically the same problem you had confronted the
Commission with. The Commission had to decide, should or should they
not distort the nomenclature of 1100 species of the funebris
subgroup? I understood that you do not like to solve problems with
800 species that you would have to incorporate to Drosophila in
addition to those which are currently contained (if you like to keep
the genus Drosophila for melanogaster). The Commission did not like
to be responsible for creating the same problems concerning the
mentioned 1100 species. Why should the Commission solve a problem
that you do not like to solve?
The Commission decided to let you take this decision yourself. If
taxonomists create such problems, sometimes they must find
responsible solutions themselves. You still do have alternatives how
to proceed, including ways to conserve the genus Drosophila for
melanogaster by taxonomic means.
There is also another way to proceed.
Names were initially invented for the purpose of communication.
You can publish your studies on phylognetic relationships within this
group without taking conclusions concerning the change of generic
No official document says that a generic name must refer to a
monophyletic unit. This is just a currently widely accepted dogma.
But it is a dogma. You do not need to follow it. There is no
objective definition for a genus, as Mayr (1942) proposed it for the
species. You can also say "we know that as a result of our
studies Drosophila is likely to represent a polyphyletic genus. But
we decided to keep using that generic name in the traditional sense
for not distorting current usage in genus-species combinations of
These things are decisions you as taxonomists have to take.
In the garden snail Helix aspersa we have the same problem. Known
under this name until the 1990s, then taxonomists argued that the
genus Helix was inappropriate and proposed to place the species in
either Cryptomphalus, Cornu or Cantareus. This poor species is
currently known under 4 generic names and 3 different gender
declinations. Helix still being by far the most frequently used one.
University of Goettingen, Germany
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