[Taxacom] validation of taxon names

Armand Turpel armand.turpel.mnhn at gmail.com
Fri Feb 17 03:25:42 CST 2012

I'm not a taxonomist or a biologist but a simple computer scientist  who 
have to fight nightmares when taxonomy hits his door.

There are different levels of validation of taxons in our database or 
species observation files we receive. Here a few examples:

Crouan{?} ex Nyl. > ????

SULZER > Sulzer

Schmitt > Schmit, Schmith, Schmidt, Schmitd, Schmid : we need the right 

Muller > Müller, Mueller: Some one couldn't find ü on his keyboard

1903 > 1907, 1902 or no year

(Schrank, 1789) > Schrank, 1789

Bombasta testosterosa (Schwarzeneggerii, 1971) > Family of Bodyaceae or 
Brainaceae or, hey, what's this?

Stilbospora angustata Pers. 1801 > Is it a synonym and if yes of what?

Onthophagus somalicus > Is it a homonym?

Then there are lsids, genetics and quantic effects ...., next week as 

Nevertheless I enjoy this discussion which, in my opinion, is really 


On 17/02/2012 00:10, Richard Zander wrote:
> It seems to be best that informatics deals best with as objective,
> factual information, minimizing the gray area.
> Regarding "subjective," however, taxonomists wrestle mightily with
> decisions every day, trying to make reasonable and fact-based name
> changes of benefit to all users of taxonomy. They use discursive logic
> based on examination of dozens or hundreds of specimens in the context
> of evolutionary theory, and this is not particularly subjective to me.
> Yes, deciding which name is "correct" ("valid" for botanists) is a
> problem for those not familiar with the subject matter. Using the latest
> name is a good rule of thumb, although I've argued against the newest
> molecular phylogenetic names interminably in the past.
> One might make an analogy with scientific theorization in other fields.
> Which theory is right, photon or wave? Is the world round or flat? Is
> the red shift a property of an expanding universe or a function of
> decreasing energy associated with intervening gravity wells? Is the
> value of pi different if you have a large enough circle, like one around
> the whole universe? Is the black maple a species or only a variety of
> the sugar maple?
> Note that the above are, however some are strange, scientific questions.
> Scientific intuition helps solve them. Each question in valid/correct
> names needs a FermiLab of scientists to do the molecular, growth,
> ethology, allozyme, biogeography, cytology, population, and etc. studies
> needed to get a definitive answer.
> This is why it is easy to say decisions are subjective when they are
> merely poorly funded. If every informatics person spent half his/her
> time in biosystematics work, these problems would be less "subjective."
> * * * * * * * * * * * *
> Richard H. Zander
> Missouri Botanical Garden, PO Box 299, St. Louis, MO 63166-0299 USA
> Web sites: http://www.mobot.org/plantscience/resbot/ and
> http://www.mobot.org/plantscience/bfna/bfnamenu.htm
> Modern Evolutionary Systematics Web site:
> http://www.mobot.org/plantscience/resbot/21EvSy.htm
> -----Original Message-----
> From: taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
> [mailto:taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu] On Behalf Of Chuck Miller
> Sent: Thursday, February 16, 2012 1:58 PM
> To: Roderic Page; taxacom
> Subject: Re: [Taxacom] validation of taxon names
> Dear Rod,
> I would propose to extend your phrase to "person(s) x in publication y
> asserted that two names are synonyms or lexical variants of each other"
> The assertion of related names occurs in a publication by that/those
> person(s).  Publication y's assertion should just be an objective fact
> and immutable.
> But, the sticky wicket comes when point 6 is posed: "Which of all the
> related names is the best one to use to refer to the organism right
> now"?   The issue of best is invariably subjective.
> Chuck
> here
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