[Taxacom] shortest description

Francisco Welter-Schultes fwelter at gwdg.de
Fri Feb 25 15:23:24 CST 2011

I understood that the term "fine" was used in the sense of "beautiful",
not in the sense of "thin".

> An honest question:
> Why exactly can L. bulla Benson 1836 be considered nomen nudum? Or any
> name for that matter, I think Richard zander makes a good point about
> where can you draw the line.
> I agree with the intepretation of this particular name being
> meaningless, but there must be a more objective parameter.

I think it is helpful that the ICZN Code provides constraints how to
interprete "description" in Art. 12.3.

"12.3. Exclusions. The mention of any of the following does not in itself
constitute a description, definition, or indication: a vernacular name,
locality, geological horizon, host, label, or specimen."

Excluding "locality" is much, because we know today that in many locally
distributed taxa an accurate locality can much more useful than a long
description which does not give the taxonomically important feature. This
makes the point that the expression "description to denote a taxon" is
taken serious in the Code.

In my lectures for the AnimalBase team I usually give the following
examples, which include also non-scientific statements and empty speech

Examples for unaccepted descriptions:
Present in Suriname; can be seen in autumn; occurs only in the Wenlockian
geological horizon; beautiful; resembles very much species B and C; size
like in species B of the same genus; colour differs from species B; can be
distinguished very easily from species B by its very well recognisable
morphological characters.
And also:
Differs from species B by differential DNA; molecular distance so large
from species B that it must be considered a different species.

In an earlier thread in the [iczn-list] mailing list the line was drawn
shortly below here:
"size ranges at the lower margin of that of species B."

The majority in that mailing list did not regard this as a description to
denote a taxon. Initially I had said, such a statement could refer to a
different average size and as such denote a taxon. This view was not
supported by the vast majority of the members of that list. So it seems
that common consensus draws the line exactly between that statement and
"smaller" (which would denote the taxon). I do not feel bad with this
interpretation. Could be included in the next Code edition.


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