[Taxacom] Paper on taxonomic standards in herpetology

Stephen Thorpe stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz
Tue May 14 18:08:18 CDT 2013

Well, I'm not a big fan of LANs, but at least they are, strictly speaking, Code compliant, since the Code allows for them. The Code does not permit ignoring available names (except by virtue of a LAN), nor should it, because this would be a slippery slope to nomenclatural chaos! What I don't quite understand about LANs is how they apply to new names proposed  after the LAN is published? Can they predetermine that, say, Hoser's next new name is unavailable? How often would it have to be updated and revisited to deal with a constant stream of newly published problematic names??

From: Doug Yanega <dyanega at ucr.edu>
To: "taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu" <taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu> 
Sent: Wednesday, 15 May 2013 10:56 AM
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] Paper on taxonomic standards in herpetology

On 5/14/13 2:35 PM, Stephen Thorpe wrote:
> Perhaps, be we also need a unified system of taxonomy and nomenclature, i.e. not one which subgroups (like herpetologists) want to tailor to their own best interests, because everyone's best interests are not the same, and you can't please all the people all of the time. We really don't want factionalism in taxonomy/nomenclature, and we particularly don't want factions deciding what is or isn't "scientific" (or rather, they can do so, but they can't ram it down other people's throats outside the faction)...
Umm... actually, while I wouldn't phrase it the way you did, this is 
exactly what the Code's provisions for LANs are intended to achieve. If 
a critical mass of taxonomists within a given discipline can come to a 
consensus as to how they wish nomenclature to be applied to their group, 
then the Code allows them to set a Code-approved standard where THEY 
decide which names are or are not valid, regardless of what the Code 
says (see Art. 79.4), or anyone outside of their discipline. 
Effectively, whatever status is given to a name within the context of a 
LAN trumps anything that may appear in the Code itself. So, yes, if 
there was a herpetological LAN, they could exclude whichever taxon names 
they wish to, even if their wishes run counter to the Code, and all 
non-herpetologists would have to use the names that the herpetologists 
tell them to. However, in order to be fully Code-compliant, the time and 
effort required to produce a LAN proposal is extremely costly to those 

The problem that this paper addresses, in effect (though maybe not 
explicitly), is why should one or two unethical people have such an 
impact that it would take man-years of labor to undo the damage they've 
done? Their alternative solution is to simply pretend the offending 
works (and names therein) do not exist, and get everyone in the 
community to refuse to cite them. Giving crackpots the "Silent 
Treatment" may seem crude, but I cannot say that it would be 
ineffective, and I cannot dispute that it would be inifinitely simpler 
than producing a LAN. At least until we can draft the next Code, this 
approach could work - as long as the herpetological community is willing 
to support it.


Doug Yanega      Dept. of Entomology      Entomology Research Museum
Univ. of California, Riverside, CA 92521-0314    skype: dyanega
phone: (951) 827-4315 (disclaimer: opinions are mine, not UCR's)
  "There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness
        is the true method" - Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chap. 82

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