[Taxacom] Do rogue taxonomists need rogue publishers?

Doug Yanega dyanega at ucr.edu
Sun Jan 31 00:49:17 CST 2010

Matt Graham wrote:

>I agree that the ICZN has some loopholes, but since when did we stop
>treating taxonomies as hypotheses and start letting the code dictate our
>opinions about the classification of our beloved organisms for us?  It
>seems like most taxonomic groups are infected with a few bad taxonomists,
>but it is up to us, the readers of these papers, to ultimately decide
>which classification scheme to useŠ we are not forced to use whatever
>takes precedence according to the code.
>There is the well known debate over renaming many ranid frogs, and folks
>are publishing using both old and new taxonomies.  Some like using 'Rana',
>while others prefer the recent changes and use 'Lithobates'.  Both are
>correct, but eventually I expect that the majority of herpetologists will
>be using one name, while the other name gradually fades away or new
>research provides another taxonomic hypothesis.  (Of course this ranid
>example is more complicated than that, but it illustrates the point)
>So who cares if rogue taxonomists are publishing in rogue journals, for it
>is up to the scientific community to decide to accept or reject their
>taxonomic hypothesesŠ. the ultimate peer-review system.

Your comments apply only to cases where new classifications - as in 
"reorganization of existing species-level taxa into higher-level 
groups" - are the issue. Rogue taxonomists that are naming new 
species that aren't new IS a problem for the Code, because they fill 
the literature with excess names that need to be synonymized, but 
also catalogued, tracked, and dealt with in perpetuity. When there 
are 17 validly-published epithets that apply to a single taxon, then 
the Code exists to determine which name out of those 17 to use, but 
this can get awfully messy when people are arguing over which of 
those taxa are synonyms of which others, and that can be especially 
hard to do when you cannot obtain the type specimens of the rogue 

As for the suggestion about requiring type deposition in public 
institutions; this approach will never find support internationally - 
there are many nations whose collections are not now or may not be 
genuinely accessible, though they are doing legitimate taxonomy. I 
doubt any of the taxonomists working in those countries are here on 
this list and able to speak up, but this issue is one that is bound 
to be highly political and divisive for the foreseeable future.


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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