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

Doug Yanega dyanega at ucr.edu
Thu Sep 15 11:57:04 CDT 2011

Paul Morris wrote:

>On Tue, 13 Sep 2011 20:29:02 -0400
>"John Shuey" <jshuey at TNC.ORG> wrote:
>>  (his paper places them at U. Penn when they are really at the USNM)
>Does citation of an incorrect repository affect the availability of 
>the names under 16.4.1 and 16.4.2. of the code?

As I noted earlier, it does not. A published statement does not have 
to be correct in order to be Code-compliant. In plain fact, I know of 
hundreds of cases where people have either listed the wrong type 
depository, or listed the correct depository but waited for years 
(even decades) to actually send the specimens to said repository, or 
- most commonly - the specimen *was* in the listed repository, but 
moved later to a different one. Those names are all available, and 
they HAVE to be - just imagine if a major museum had to close its 
doors and move its entire type collection to another institution - 
would we have to invalidate every one of the taxa involved?
The same goes for diagnostic characters; they do not have to actually 
be diagnostic, just *purported* to be diagnostic. One could have a 
species whose holotype is entirely white in coloration, and publish 
in its description that it is entirely black, and distinguished from 
its congeners by virtue of it being the only all-black species in the 
genus, and it would STILL be a valid description. The Code does not 
require that what is published be true. This has come up many, many 
times over the years - especially with very old descriptions, but not 
exclusively so. Rarely is the discrepancy between reality and 
publication so extreme as in my example, but there is no 
satisfactorily objective cutoff that one can use, so the default is 
to accept everything. After all, even in the above example, it could 
turn out (e.g.) that the holotype was an albino.

Should any genuinely extreme cases ever crop up (imagine a person who 
self-publishes a new fish description and accidentally gives, under 
the description and diagnosis, text obviously referring to a frog), 
the Commission could always be asked to suppress the name using the 
Plenary Power - though even then, it might still not be suppressed 
(if, for example, there was also a photo of the holotype).


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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