[Taxacom] Does the species name have to change when it moves genus?
r.page at bio.gla.ac.uk
Tue Jun 19 03:39:31 CDT 2012
On 19 Jun 2012, at 08:57, Richard Pyle wrote:
> There is another way to frame this:
> 1) Names assigned to a single type specimen, and the conceptual scope of the
> taxon implied by usage of the name left to subjective debate;
> 2) Names assigned to an objectively defined taxon (clade), but where parent
> and child can reverse roles.
> #1 is Linnean Nomenclature(ICZN, ICNafp, bacteriological Code); # 2 is
> essentially Phylocode.
> After two and a half centuries of mostly successful implementation, why
> would we try to re-define how Linnean names work? Why not just adopt a
> system designed to do what you want it to do? Phylocode have too much
> baggage? OK, then define something new.
I'm not actually suggesting we change the code, merely the convention to automatically change the genus name if a species moves.
> The real elephant in the room is the one that Paul Kirk articulated: i.e.,
> that the problems related to species epithets changing combinations with
> different genera are downright trivial (and actually almost tractable --
> watch this space) compared with the wholly intractable problem of divining
> implied taxon concepts from scientific names (with or without basionym
> authorships, with or without year, with or without combination authorships).
Trivial in the sense that if we had all the information on names (synonyms included) linked to types we could resolve synonyms computationally, but we don't, certainly not at the scale of the 10x5 - 10x6 names that databases such as NCBI taxonomy and GBIF deal with. Yes, in principle, it is tractable, but why do we contribute to creating the situation in the first place?
Personally I suspect the taxon concept issue isn't going to be worth the effort expended, unless tackled with some clever tools for inferring context from citation, etc. it's simply unscalable. It's a fun problem, but seems mostly dragged out to frighten children and reassure ourselves that taxonomy is frightfully complicated. Why not focus on what is tractable and will add immediate value?
> If you want to propose a new "norm" in how taxonomists (and other
> biologists) cite scientific names, don't piddle around with the genus
> combination issue. Just get people to add a "sensu [Author+year]" to their
> first-use of scientific names, so we can more readily nail down the usage of
> the name to a (one would hope!) well-defined taxon concept.
I'm not proposing a change in how we cite names, and suggestions that embed more semantics in names (such as author, date, first name) are just asking for trouble http://bit.ly/KQ6o46 Citing a reference for "what I mean by" is useful, but I'd be happier if that was linked to actual data.
> While such a proposal would be far less provocative (and, hence, much less
> fun); it would certainly be far more *USEFUL* -- and also far more easy to
> implement (i.e., much less disruptive to historical practice).
Ironically, if you read the tea leaves the way I do, we are moving to a biodiversity science without names, where specimens will be the unit of choice, and taxa will be computational inferences, not vague assertions supported by a citation at best. But that's another story...
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu [mailto:taxacom-
>> bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu] On Behalf Of Roderic Page
>> Sent: Monday, June 18, 2012 9:38 PM
>> To: TAXACOM
>> Cc: Nico Franz
>> Subject: Re: [Taxacom] Does the species name have to change when it
>> moves genus?
>> Nico has put the issue quite elegantly:
>> "The inference gains that come with these names/causal properties
>> associations (seem to have, historically) outweigh(ed) the costs of
>> It seems to me we have two alternative ways of naming things. Once we've
>> coined a name, either:
>> 1. names don't change when notions of relationship change, hence we can't
>> (necessarily) infer relationships from name, or
>> 2. names change when notions of relationship change, hence we can infer
>> relationships from names
>> Option 1 means names are stable (great for information retrieval) but
>> tell you much about relationships (indeed, may be positively misleading if
>> read literally).
>> Option 2 means names are (usually) informative about relationships at some
>> level, but are liable to change at any time.
>> Option 1 means we can't use names to convey relationship, so we need
>> some other way to do this (e.g., phylogenetic trees)
>> Option 2 means we can't retrieve all we know about a taxon by searching on
>> a single name, so we need a way to track all name changes over time (e.g.,
>> global database of synonyms).
>> Taxonomic practise follows option 2, but without a database of synonyms.
>> Arguably in the past option 1 would have been difficult to implement given
>> the varied notion of what "related" might mean. Given that the last few
>> decades have seen "related" become fairly explicitly defined in terms of
>> evolutionary history, might option 1 not be worth reconsidering?
>> Roderic Page
>> Professor of Taxonomy
>> Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health and Comparative Medicine College
>> Medical, Veterinary and Life Sciences Graham Kerr Building University of
>> Glasgow Glasgow G12 8QQ, UK
>> Email: r.page at bio.gla.ac.uk
>> Tel: +44 141 330 4778
>> Fax: +44 141 330 2792
>> Skype: rdmpage
>> AIM: rodpage1962 at aim.com
>> Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1112517192
>> Twitter: http://twitter.com/rdmpage
>> Blog: http://iphylo.blogspot.com
>> Home page: http://taxonomy.zoology.gla.ac.uk/rod/rod.html
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Professor of Taxonomy
Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health and Comparative Medicine
College of Medical, Veterinary and Life Sciences
Graham Kerr Building
University of Glasgow
Glasgow G12 8QQ, UK
Email: r.page at bio.gla.ac.uk
Tel: +44 141 330 4778
Fax: +44 141 330 2792
AIM: rodpage1962 at aim.com
Home page: http://taxonomy.zoology.gla.ac.uk/rod/rod.html
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