[Taxacom] Does the species name have to change when it moves genus?

Daniel Mietchen daniel.mietchen at googlemail.com
Wed Jun 20 17:21:01 CDT 2012

Dear all,

On Wed, Jun 20, 2012 at 3:36 PM, Roderic Page <r.page at bio.gla.ac.uk> wrote:
> On 20 Jun 2012, at 14:18, Dr.B.J.Tindall wrote:
>> well it would be a sad day if we didn't continue to learn. Thanks for also drawing attention to "open access" issue, although aren't there different models under things like the "creative commons"?
> It get's a little complicated, see "Why Full Open Access Matters" http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.1001210 for some background. because "open access" has some value as a buzzword publishers tend to bandy it about without actually being really open. And it is possible use some Creative Commons licenses very badly and restrict freedoms. PLoS and journals like ZooKeys are a good benchmark to see how it should be done.

To expand on the ways in which Open Access matters:
if taxa are described in a venue that does not use an open license (
http://opendefinition.org/ ), then this restricts the way in which the
content can be reused.

For instance, entries about these taxa in places like Wikispecies or
Wikipedia cannot use any of the images from the original description
in order to explain the characteristics of the taxa in question.

Having read-only access to the papers does not solve this problem (nor
does adding a "non-commercial" module to the license, but that's a
different discussion altogether).

If the material is openly licensed, however, lots of things can happen
to it, including wide exposure and adaptations.

In terms of exposure, consider the example of the frog Paedophryne
amauensis (currently the smallest known vertebrate), whose description
(by Eric Rittmeyer et al.) was published in PLoS ONE in the evening
(UTC) of January 11. Within hours, the  Wikipedia article "Smallest
organisms" on the English Wikipedia was updated (cf.
), and already the initial edit contained a link to an article about
the new species, complete with pictures and taxobox. By the end of
January 12, the article had been featured (with an image) on the Main
Page of about a dozen language versions of Wikipedia (cf.
 ), driving thousands of visitors to the respective articles (cf.

The original article in PLoS ONE described not only that species and
another one (P. swiftorum) but also provided a map showing the type
localities for these two and for the two species described in a 2010
ZooKeys paper (by Fred Kraus) that had established the genus (P.
kathismaphlox and P. oyatabu). The problem: The map was already
outdated on the day the paper came out, because another (late 2011)
paper by Fred Kraus in ZooKeys had since described two more species
(P. dekot and P. verrucosa). Both the 2011 Kraus and the 2012
Rittmeyer papers give the number of species in the genus as four but
the Wikipedia article on the genus exists in a dozen languages, all of
whom state the correct number (sometimes with links to articles about
all six species, e.g. http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paedophryne ) and
display a map that also shows the locations for all six species -
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Map_of_Paedophryne_localities_2.png ,
adapted from the Rittmeyer 2012 one.

This story would have been quite different if the species had not been
described in an article published under an open license, with all that
it entails in terms of public perception of taxonomic or biodiversity
research. And Paedophryne is not alone - see
for another such example.

Now consider what Donald Quicke wrote earlier in this thread (cf.
http://mailman.nhm.ku.edu/pipermail/taxacom/2012-June/075275.html ):
"It is disheartening that having revised loads of genera, nearly all
of the spp that i have described or synonymised have never been
published on since (except rarely by myself)."

This situation is certainly true for other taxa, and it means that
even such simple pieces of information like the number of species in a
genus are sometimes hard to gather from the specialist literature
(including databases - cf.
), even though we have the technical means of representing the
information in a more up-to-date manner (and this is of course not
limited to Wikipedia).

Apart from updating things like the map, images from openly licensed
resources can be adapted in multiple ways to fit into an encyclopedic
or educational context, as highlighted in

As a sidenote, the widespread practice amongst taxonomists (and
others) to publish composite figures is also something mainly based on
tradition, and it actively hinders reuses of the kind outlined above,
since most reuse scenarios (e.g. Wikipedia entries or blog posts or
even just illustrations of phylogenetic trees) would require single
images of a particular taxon but if these have to be extracted from
the composite one, they have a lower resolution than the one the
author had originally produced and often contain letters or scale bars
or other information in a way that is not editable (as a SVG file
would be). Such technical issues are the main reason why no images
from a taxonomic source have become a Featured Picture on Wikimedia
Commons (cf. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Commons:Picture_of_the_Year/2011/Finalists
). Wouldn't it be great to have some of your images or multimedia
exposed this way?




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