[Taxacom] validation of taxon names

Richard Zander Richard.Zander at mobot.org
Mon Feb 20 12:36:08 CST 2012

Wait a minute. There is a sequence of terms involved in botany:
A name must be effectively published, then checked to see if it is
valid, and then legitimate in breaking no rules, and them correct in
that "Each taxonomic group with a particular circumscription, position,
and rank can bear only one correct name, the earliest that is in
accordance with the Rules, except in specified cases. (Principle IV). 

So we are talking about one name per recognized taxon. What that name is
can be approached nomenclaturally by seeing which homotypic or
heterotypic synonym is earliest for the entity at that rank, plus
legitimately published. Sometimes informatics questions can be solved
with the Rules, which is nice.

In cases where the rules don't fix a problem, we can use the well-known
philosophical idea that if you phrase the question right, an idea of the
answer presents itself. Suppose two authorities have a different idea of
what rank or in which genus a species should be. Since we are
scientists, we should be able to check the methods the authorities used
to analyze the situation. Maybe they didn't use any analytic methods, in
which case the study is not replicable and it isn't science; well then
that is when a user selects a name subjectively from silly taxonomy. Not

But most of the time taxonomists use some kind of method, or heuristics,
or system, and so on, no matter how informal or perfunctory. So a user
can ask, what was this system and are the studies replicable? Did
different authors sample the same group? Were the samples big enough? If
not big enough and analogy was used, what analogy? What heuristic or
species concept or genus concept was used to sort groups? Surely if
taxonomists are really scientists, their methods are amenable to
formalization and replication from the same sampled data set. Such
methods are not limited to only phenetics or only phylogenetics, but
some combination of methods that works to cluster specimens into optimal
groups that reflect both obvious similarity and less obvious evolution. 

Again, I think, yes, many taxa are well known as distinct at some level
and are generally agreed upon. But for a myriad taxa, we have little
data, little access to well-sampled material, few funds or students or
time to do the biosystematics needed to truly understand these taxa.
Clear circumscriptions agreed upon by most are possible, in my opinion.
Asking taxonomists for clear circumscriptions agreed upon most right now
this instant is more like "Hurry up now, we are waiting, waiting,


* * * * * * * * * * * *
Richard H. Zander
Missouri Botanical Garden, PO Box 299, St. Louis, MO 63166-0299 USA  
Web sites: http://www.mobot.org/plantscience/resbot/ and
Modern Evolutionary Systematics Web site:

-----Original Message-----
From: taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
[mailto:taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu] On Behalf Of Curtis Clark
Sent: Sunday, February 19, 2012 10:13 PM
To: taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] validation of taxon names

On 2/19/2012 7:52 PM, Stephen Thorpe wrote:
> if "valid" means the same in botany as it does in zoology,
It doesn't; it means "published according to the rules". The botanical 
equivalent of the zoological "valid" is "correct".

Curtis Clark        http://www.csupomona.edu/~jcclark
After 2012-01-02:
Biological Sciences                   +1 909 869 4140
Cal Poly Pomona, Pomona CA 91768


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