[Taxacom] Paper on one fly, but of general significance

Perochaeta cuirassa sepsidnet at gmail.com
Fri Nov 29 22:15:10 CST 2013

Thanks for the discussion of the paper. We expected that these points would
be raised. That’s why they are addressed in the paper. Just to summarize:
It took one day to do all the digital images and another 3 hours to do the
SEM. Compare this with trying to sort out what de Meijere and Duda were
trying to describe via text and diagnostic drawings. This took much longer
including the time of Lengyel in Budapest who helped by photographing the

Let’s assume for a second that the de Meijere had the equipment and
publication tools that we have today. He could have illustrated the
holotype and still provided the rudimentary description that was adequate
at his time. We could have ignored the shortcomings of his description and
relied on the images of the holotype. We would have been done with the
identification in 20 minutes. de Meijere didn’t have the tools and
opportunities, but we do. Should we ignore this and continue as ever? This
depends on whether we are confident that our current descriptions will be
adequate for the next 100+ years. To judge this, we can go back in history.
Diptera taxonomy is all about the discovery of an increasingly large number
of characters that have to be considered for species description and
identification. We have some indication from molecular data, that there are
more species out there than we currently distinguish based on our current
morphological, diagnostic tools; i.e., we already know that our current
diagnoses will be inadequate before soon. So, should we incorporate this
knowledge into taxonomic practice?  We think we should because not doing so
is creating work for the future generation of taxonomists. They will
consider our current descriptions focusing on currently diagnostic features
as inadequate as we consider de Meijere’s descriptions today. De Meijere
didn’t have a choice. We do.

In a way, the time that we can save today by not “over-illustrating” is the
time that we take away from future users. If it was a 1:1 time exchange, we
would agree that we shouldn’t do this. However, as discussed earlier,
tracking down types and making sense of inadequate diagnoses takes a lot
more time than including a few additional images. Of course, we agree that
current descriptions should highlight characters that are diagnostic by
today’s standards. That’s why we have a section highlighting the diagnostic
differences of all described 6 species of Perochaeta. We didn’t do a key
because reading this section will do the trick without being too tedious.

Yuchen and Rudolf

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