[Taxacom] loooongest species description?

Francisco Welter-Schultes fwelter at gwdg.de
Fri Feb 25 08:05:56 CST 2011

Longest description: should be Homo sapiens I guess. Linnaeus 1758 gave
bibliographic references, the information published in these references
forms part of the description.
Long accounts on human anatomy published in the 1600s or early 1700s, you
might check that.
For some animals Linnaeus gave more than 20 bibliographic citations, for
example for Lacerta crocodilus (a name not used today), you have to count
the total of all these descriptions. For several species Linnaeus cited
entire books. Check elephants and other vertebrates, human parasites,
honey bee.

Shortest description: none.
- A new replacement name has no description.
- A new genus with available species included does not need a description.
- A new species with descriptions for subordinate taxa included does not
need a description.
- Most malacologists interprete Art. 11.6.1 in a form that a name first
published in synonymy does at no place need a description (I dispute this
interpretation, but some names are widely recognised under this standard).

Shortest regular description in molluscs: "major" = bigger.

Most beautiful regular description: "tastes good" (an Irish fish).

Are descriptions needed today? In insects obviously not, in terrestrial
molluscs certainly yes. The standard in mollusc descriptions has not
substantially changed since the 1840s. They mentioned about 10 characters,
but often more, today perhaps 15 in average.
Statistical evaluations of variation of morphological characters would
often be necessary, still neglected in many original descriptions of new
taxa today.

The most accurate terrestrial mollusc descriptions were those by
Moquin-Tandon 1855. He described many many characters of the soft body of
the living animal that we do not describe in that detail today.
Present-day standard is less accurate, much shorter, about 1/5 of text.

you must not have problems with the main scientific languages in the 1800s
if you study European animals. German, French, Italian. English was rarely
used until the 1980s by containental Europeans.
I personally don't like Latin descriptions (most descriptions until the
1870s were in Latin). They used internal Latin slang that online
translators would not translate well.

We have two main summaries for terrestrial mollusc descriptions published
in the second half of the 1800s: Pfeiffer (in Latin, worldwide until 1877)
and Westerlund (in German, only Palearctic, until 1890). I prefer
Westerlund. He translated the Latin descriptions into a well intelligible
and modern German.


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