[Taxacom] Paper on taxonomic standards in herpetology

Wolfgang Wuster w.wuster at bangor.ac.uk
Wed May 15 00:31:44 CDT 2013

On 15/05/2013 00:08, Stephen Thorpe wrote:
> 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??

I think that hits the nail on the head, together with Doug's comments 
about the time involved. This is an ongoing problem in herpetology, 
those creating the plethora of names are still very much alive and 
middle-aged rather than old, so the flood of new names is not likely to 
abate. Indeed, the main response to any criticism has been a slew of new 
names - Hoser has already just published another 100-odd new names in 
response to the Kaiser et al. paper, within the space of approx 6 weeks! 
LANs are simply not designed to deal with ongoing situations (quite 
apart from the fact that most of us would rather be describing 
biodiversity rather than cleaning up someone else's mess).

Stephen is right, strictly speaking, in saying that the "glory" lies in 
the science, not the naming. However, as Stephen Jay Gould often pointed 
out, science is a human endeavour, carried out by humans with human 
passions, ambitions, desires, hunches etc. Denying the human angle is 
failing to recognise how science really works.

While the scientific merit may be the same, "Redescription of taxon X" 
simply does not have the same appeal as "A new species/genus/whatever of 
X", won't attract the same media coverage or gain the same recognition 
from the wider world, including funders. It is of course something we 
quite rightly have to deal with as a matter of course where historic 
names exist, but that is a very different situation from being forced to 
accept the ongoing creation of new names on an industrial scale for the 
sole purpose of self-glorification by a few individuals.

I appreciate that those may not be issues of scientific merit, but they 
do matter in the real world of humans, of which taxonomists are part.



Dr. Wolfgang Wüster  -  Senior Lecturer
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