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

John Grehan calabar.john at gmail.com
Sat Nov 30 09:07:21 CST 2013

In principle, I am favorably inclined to the author's notion of 'more is
better'. One sees almost the opposite in many publications on hominids
where it is almost a case of 'less is better' where illustrations are
minimal, relatively low resolution, and inadequate for further research by
those who do not have direct access to the type/s. It has been suggested to
me that this minimalism is deliberately designed to prevent anyone other
than the discoverers or members of their clique from controlling
interpretation of the evidence. Thank goodness this does not often extend
to other groups.

John Grehan

On Fri, Nov 29, 2013 at 11:15 PM, Perochaeta cuirassa
<sepsidnet at gmail.com>wrote:

> 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
> type.
> 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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