[Taxacom] Generic type of large genus belongs in different genus
r.page at bio.gla.ac.uk
Tue Apr 9 02:12:50 CDT 2013
My perspective is motivated mainly by simply trying to find information. If I search an archive like BHL, which spans centuries of literature up to the present day, finding information about a taxon is greatly complicated if the name keeps changing. This is a well known problem. The effects would be lessened if we either:
(a) Stopped creating new combinations to reflect a favoured classification
(b) Had a complete database of synonyms that we could use to expand our queries
Either solution would work, but we've done neither, hence we have a mess.
I'm not trying to "ban" Sophophora melanogaster, I'm just questioning why we want to change the name. OK, I understand why (we want names to reflect relationships) I just question the cost of this (it complicates finding information) versus the perceived benefits. A phylogeny is a much more informative summary of the relationships of this fly than its binomial name, and changing the name severs the connection with the bulk of the data we've accumulated about this insect. Sure, some people may know that Sophophora melanogaster and Drosophila melanogaster, but for the vast majority of species most people (or, more importantly, computers) won't know that two names refer to the same thing.
> So, ideally, any publication which uses the combination Sophophora melanogaster just needs to state once at the beginning that it is the same species as was originally described as Drosophila melanogaster by Meigen in 1830
Seriously? This is how you want to tackle the problem? How do you envisage something like Google or BHL making use of this?
On 8 Apr 2013, at 23:13, Stephen Thorpe wrote:
> Actually, all this is confusing several distinct issues. We have a half-baked notion that a species has a "current name", possibly different from its original combination, and that this "current name" should act as a unique identifier for the species! Rubbish! And all this has nothing to do with "instability", which is more about synonymy, i.e. a change in the specific epithet, not about changes in combination. Original combinations are objective unique identifiers for species, with the caveat that in cases of homonymy, the original combination is objectively replaced by that of the first valid replacement name. "Current names" are subjective hypotheses of relationships ... like it or not! There simply is no problem in the case, for example, of Drosophila melanogaster, as long as the specific epithet stays as 'melanogaster', and as long as it is clear that we are talking about the same species as was originally described as Drosophila melanogaster by Meigen in 1830. So, ideally, any publication which uses the combination Sophophora melanogaster just needs to state once at the beginning that it is the same species as was originally described as Drosophila melanogaster by Meigen in 1830. But for some reason, Rod wants to ban the use of Sophophora melanogaster, and stick forever with JUST Drosophila melanogaster! But why? I can see no reason for such a position. Similarly, Kim seems to see a problem here, and seems to think that if people start using Sophophora melanogaster, then the link will be lost to the huge pile of past literature dealing nominally with Drosophila melanogaster, as if we won't know that they are the same species! This also seems very strange to me!
> From: Roderic Page <r.page at bio.gla.ac.uk>
> To: TAXACOM <taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu>
> Sent: Monday, 8 April 2013 7:39 PM
> Subject: Re: [Taxacom] Generic type of large genus belongs in different genus
> It seems to me that this discussion makes a mockery of notion that nomenclature is separate from taxonomy. Once you have bionomial names, and insist on those names being "meaningful" (i.e., the genus name tells you something about relationships) then you have a recipe for instability.
> The ICZN decision regarding Drosophila melanogaster was the right one in my opinion, but for the wrong reasons. Why does it matter if Drosophila melanogaster sits in a phylogeny next to some Sophophora species? What matters is its relationships, not what we call it.
> Names are a poor way to convey relationships, why burden them with this role? If you have no other way of conveying relationships then perhaps the trade off between stability and meaning seems worthwhile. But we do have powerful ways of visualising relationships, so it seems perverse to continue to change names (thus annoying people who use them) in the hope that names remain "meaningful". We don't expect the name of an organism to be meaningful ("maximus" might not be the biggest species, "africanus" might come from Australia), can we not let this last scrap of meaning go and save us (and the wider community) some grief?
> Roderic Page
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Email: r.page at bio.gla.ac.uk
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