[Taxacom] Paper on taxonomic standards in herpetology

Wuster,Wolfgang w.wuster at bangor.ac.uk
Thu May 16 07:16:43 CDT 2013

Roderic Page wrote:
> As an outsider I find this thread fascinating, in a train-wreck kind of way.
> Regarding Hoser's names, a blanket rejection seems odd, given that some names seem to have gained acceptance. Broghammerus is used in the NCBI taxonomy http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/Taxonomy/Browser/wwwtax.cgi?id=1334238, has molecular support (see http://dx.di.org/10.1111/j.1095-8312.2007.00904.x, PDF available here http://cteg.berkeley.edu/~rabosky/Publications_files/Rawlings_etal_BJLS_2008.pdf ), and two of the authors of Kaiser et al. (Wulf D. Schleip and Mark O’Shea) recently accepted the genus as valid in a checklist of pythons ( http://dx.doi.org/10.3897/zookeys.66.683 ). What has changed that we should now reject Broghammerus?

The main thing that has changed and that caused the Kaiser et al. paper 
to be written is the rapid increase in the rate of new names being 
published. One of the authors published approx. 280 new names in 2012 
alone. There are over 100 additional names in issues 16-17 published in 
the last couple of weeks. Once the conclusion was reached that "business 
as usual" is no longer a viable option, and since the overwhelming 
majority of the earlier names have not gained acceptance, it made sense 
to start moves to reject them at or near the beginning of his output. 
Incidentally, Kaiser et al. are not alone in arguing for the rejection 
of Broghammerus - see comments independent of Kaiser et al. on 
Broghammerus in Pyron et al., 2013 - 

Perhaps there may be a case for retaining those names that have gained 
wider usage (maybe half a dozen out of over 300), and moreover, there 
may indeed be a substantial body of opinion among herpetologists in 
favour of doing so. A community social media structure as advocated by 
Doug would certainly be a suitable forum to decide on more complex cases 
like Broghammerus and the few other names that have found some level of 

> I can't help feel that there's an element of "we did all this hard work to show that taxa 'x' is distinct, but some bugger has already given it a name, but he's a bit of a joker and (chortle) published it in his own journal (the horror), so let's give it a Proper Name".

I may be wrong, but I suspect that many people commenting here don't 
actually have the full picture of the problem. This is not about good 
vs. bad taxonomy, or a few names that are causing offence to a few, it 
is about large-scale exploitation of the Code's provisions to subvert 
the whole of herpetological nomenclature. That's why the Kaiser et al. 
paper obtained the support of a large number of societies and 
individuals. I would suggest that anyone interested should grab 
themselves a coffee and take the time to read some of this literature, 
e.g., http://www.smuggled.com/AJHI13.pdf or 
http://www.smuggled.com/AJHI15.pdf, and then ask themselves whether we 
really want this as part of the public face of 21st century taxonomy. 
This issue has generated comment in a number of places, including the 
pages of Nature, on many occasions. I strongly suspect that much of the 
rest of the scientific community will regard the fact that we are having 
to waste our time on this with head-shaking incredulity.

> I can't help but think part of the issue here is way too many people chasing too few taxa. I suspect arthropod or nematode taxonomists would kill for this degree of attention lavished on their beasties. I'm mean, pythons are cool and everything, but seriously, aren't there more pressing things to worry about? 
On a global scale, of course there are. However, if you happen to be a 
herpetological systematist, then I'm afraid this stuff does loom pretty 
large. It is always easy for the unaffected majority to overlook the 
concerns of a minority, in taxonomy just as in any other societal 
context. However, that does not make it right or fair on that minority. 
I hope that those reading this can understand why the reaction we are 
discussing here has come about, and help with the search for a solution. 
So far Doug's proposals have been the most promising basis for development.


Dr. Wolfgang Wüster  -  Senior Lecturer
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