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

James Whitfield jwhitfie at life.illinois.edu
Thu Sep 15 14:25:38 CDT 2011

Doug brings up an interesting example (albinism)! A weird non-genetic
example-  Microgaster robiniae Fitch, a braconid wasp, was described by
Asa Fitch as being reddish brown (actually, if you look at the original
description, it is atrocious, describing color features of one sex and
then non-corresponding features of the other so you can't compare

Fitch had the habit of leaving vials of ethanol-preserved specimens on
windowsills of his office. This resulted in extreme bleaching of the
specimens, often even before he got around to describing them.

No one could ever find specimens of this species again (reared from a
leafmining gracillariid moth on black locust, Robinia pseudoacacia) that
were reddish, so the name persisted for over 100 years until I revised the
genus (now separated as Pholetesor) in the 1980's and examined hundreds
and hundreds of reared examples from the same host (some reared by me),
all of which were black but had the identical morphology otherwise. 
Apparently other revisers of Asa Fitch's material have had the same
experience. An application to the ICZN fixed this (robiniae was the senior
but fortunately profoundly ignored synonym).

I personally think a centralized registry of names would provide more
quality control.  If some competitive people are difficult when names are
legitimately proposed, their actions will be obvious to everyone (even if
sociopolitics temporarily prevent fixes).  MUCH better then letting the
idiosyncratic and obscure things that often happened in previous centuries
recur. Can we not improve??

Thanks Doug, Jim

> 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).
> Peace,
> --
> 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)
>               http://cache.ucr.edu/~heraty/yanega.html
>    "There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness
>          is the true method" - Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chap. 82
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James B. Whitfield
Department of Entomology
320 Morrill Hall
505 S. Goodwin Avenue
University of Illinois
Urbana, IL 61801

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