[Taxacom] very nice opinion article in today's Zootaxa

John Shuey jshuey at TNC.ORG
Thu Sep 15 08:29:13 CDT 2011

I really meant stupid when I said "stupid names" although mean spirited also comes to mind.....  They were specifically intended to insult key players  here are some sample etymologies.  

The name favilla, a feminine noun in apposition, means 'smouldering embers'. The species is named in recognition of the skipper taxonomist John M. Burns.

The name inflatio, a noun in apposition, means 'inflation', reflecting the large increase in apparent species diversity of the A. fulgerator complex resulting from the study of DNA barcodes

The name obstupefactus means 'thunderstruck'. This name seems appropriate for a sibling species of A. fulgerator, whose name means 'a priest who interprets
omens from lightning'.

The name fruticibus means 'from the bushes', referring to the fact that DNA barcodes from this species do not form a distinct group in the cladistic analyses of Brower (2006).

The name viracocha, a noun in apposition, is the name of a bearded white god of the Incas. The species is named for Dan Janzen.

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-----Original Message-----
From: taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu [mailto:taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu] On Behalf Of Doug Yanega
Sent: Wednesday, September 14, 2011 7:10 PM
To: TAXACOM at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] very nice opinion article in today's Zootaxa

I had passed along this recent set of messages to a colleague who 
does a lot of sequencing, and he had a response to John Shuey's 
following message:

>Indeed - to follow up on Jim's comment, the Brower paper was 
>intended as a provocation.  Brower did not examine any material 
>directly, or handle the actual types (his paper places them at U. 
>Penn when they are really at the USNM) and pre-empted John Burns' 
>long-term work to provide descriptive descriptions of these species 
>based on a blend of adult and larval morphology, ecology and 
>barcodes.  We are left with 10 stupid names that no-one can tell 
>apart without barcodes....  Quite a disservice in my mind and an 
>absolute slap in the face to Burns and Janzen's efforts to get real 
>descriptions of these bugs out....

To pass along my friend's comment:
"This is confusing, because if the barcoders' claims are correct 
(which seems doubtful, but let's ignore that for the moment), then 
Burns' study should find exactly 10 taxa, corresponding exactly to 
Brower's 10 taxa, and everything should be fine. In other words, it 
only partially pre-empts Burns' work, and then only if the barcode 
phylogeny was 100% right, in which case the names are not at all 
stupid. What Burns will accomplish then is adding more characters to 
help recognize these species, which isn't an insignificant 
contribution, given the impracticality of barcoding every specimen in 
existence. He can still publish descriptions, and people will be 
happy to have them. The only thing that would be pre-empted is the 
actual authorship of the new names, and that's not much of a slap in 
the face. But if Burns eventually comes to a completely different 
conclusion, then that would mean that the barcodes were misleading 
(and Brower was right to criticize that approach), and Burns' work 
would be validated by virtue of proving the barcode phylogeny wrong, 
allowing him to sink some of Brower's names into synonymy and 
describe new species himself. His face would remain essentially 
unslapped, aside from Brower's shameless sarcasm."

My own comment on this is to point out that, technically, even if 
Brower cited the type depositories incorrectly, the Code 
unfortunately does not require that what is published has to be 
correct. Likewise, it can be argued that the "diagnostic characters" 
might easily prove not to be diagnostic if more sampling were to be 
done (i.e., that a "uniquely fixed state" proves later to be 
variable), but this also still technically satisfies the Code. 
Ultimately, the descriptions are technically Code-compliant, even if 
erroneous, and even though treating codon position states as 
diagnostic characters really stretches the Code. If there's any 
controversy here, it's going to boil down to the taxonomy (which is 
obviously contentious) rather than the nomenclature.


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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