[Taxacom] When electing a neotype, how to define the other gender

Doug Yanega dyanega at ucr.edu
Tue Oct 1 21:47:46 CDT 2013

On 10/1/13 12:44 PM, Gaimari, Stephen at CDFA wrote:
> Doug Yanega wrote:
>> A very important criterion under 75.3 is that a neotype MUST originate
> >from "as nearly as practicable to the original type locality" - failure
>> to comply with this means that if anyone later obtains a specimen that
>> is from a closer site, then they can have your neotype set aside and
>> put their own in place.
> In any case, the following is essentially the same segue, so I'll give a slightly modified version of what I tried to submit earlier.
> But just to address one quick thing first before moving on - the idea that if someone later obtains a specimen from closer to the original type locality, then they can have your neotype set aside. Of course by use of plenary power this could happen theoretically, but I think it is highly unlikely and would have to be a very extreme case. Once a neotype is validly designated, Article 76.3 states that its place of origin becomes the type locality, regardless of previously published statements of the type locality. So the original type locality becomes moot (although like I said, a very extreme case could justifiably become subject to Commission deliberation).
All of the clauses in Art. 75.3 MUST be fulfilled before a neotype can 
be considered validly designated - it says so right in the header to the 
Article ("A neotype is validly designated when... and only when..."). 
Anyone who finds a flaw in compliance with ANY of the sub-articles can 
rightfully claim that the neotype was NOT validly designated. Having a 
specimen in your hand that IS from the type locality when the putative 
neotype is NOT is, in and of itself, direct evidence that the neotype is 
NOT from as close as practicable (if you could get your hands on a 
specimen, then so could the author, /ipso facto/). This does not require 
any ruling of the Commission or use of the Plenary Powers - just a 
published statement saying "Author X demonstrably did not fulfill the 
conditions of Art. 75.3, therefore their neotype designation is not 
valid, and I hereby designate specimen Y to be the neotype."
> Moving on...
> Doug Yanega wrote:
>> Looking over a set of papers handy on my desk, of 932 paratypes from 108
>> taxa, and assuming that authors typically list topotypical paratypes in
>> an obvious manner so I didn't miss any in my quick scanning, I see only
>> 80 out of 932 that are BOTH the same gender as the holotype (and thus
>> eligible to be a neotype under 75.3.5) and also from the exact type
>> locality (thus eligible to be a neotype under 75.3.6). That is, over 90%
>> of all these designated paratypes are not eligible to be neotypes under
>> the Code, and a fair number of the species (67 of 108) have no eligible
>> paratypes at all - including many where the type series is just a holotype
>> and "allotype". Since the majority fail to comply with 75.3.6, I should
>> clarify: I do not consider, for example, that when the holotype of Liris
>> evansi is from "Mexico: Guerrero: 3 mi N Taxco" that any of the 7 paratypes
>> from "Mexico: Guerrero: Acapulco" are from the type locality, nor that it
>> is /not practicable/ to obtain fresh specimens from the type locality,
>> should one desire a genuinely Code-compliant neotype.
> What is this about "eligibility" viz. 75.3.5 and 75.3.6? I think you are reading more into these articles than is actually there.
You apparently have no lawyers in your family. ;-)
> You state that it is to be the same gender as the holotype (and thus *eligible* to be a neotype), but I see nothing in article 75.3.5 that says this. The article allows either sex, even though it states that the specimen should be consistent with what is known about the former name bearing type (with sex certainly being one of these). But, if the author contends that it is desirable to secure stability of nomenclature to use the opposite sex, it fulfills that qualifying condition (and the Code does not regulate this taxonomic judgment of what will better serve stability). So really, from a Code-compliance standpoint, either sex is "eligible".
Only if you can *make* *a convincing case* that use of the opposite sex 
is desirable. I contend that cases where the sex of the holotype lacks 
crucial species-diagnostic features that can only be accounted for by 
switching to a neotype of the opposite sex are very rare - so rare as to 
be meaningless in the broader discussion. As such, anyone can 
automatically gainsay someone else's neotype designation when that 
person simply chooses a specimen of the opposite sex for a trivial 
reason such as (e.g.) because it's in better condition than the other 
specimens on hand. Obviously, the solution if one has poor specimens to 
work with is to obtain more specimens until one locates a decent 
specimen of the same sex as the lost type. Otherwise, your selection of 
neotype is effectively out of laziness, and I don't see the wording of 
this article as suggesting that a reason like "I checked for specimens 
in six different collections, and I don't feel like writing letters to 
anyone else to look for better specimens" is a good sound justification 
for the selection of a neotype that violates 75.3.
> You seem to imply that if specimens are not from the original locality, they are somehow, again, not "eligible" to be neotypes.
They most certainly are not eligible if even a SINGLE specimen exists 
which IS from the type locality. For example, the newly-described fly 
Stichopogon venturiensis has a whopping 104 designated paratypes. Two of 
them are males (like the holotype) from the type locality (there are 
also 4 females). NONE of the remaining 102 paratypes is eligible to 
become neotype so long as those two specimens exist, because choice of 
any other specimen *over those* would violate 75.3.5 and/or 75.3.6. 
Therefore, those 102 other paratypes have no foreseeable nomenclatural 
purpose, though they most definitely serve a taxonomic purpose. That was 
the point I was making about a low percentage of paratypes being 
eligible to be types (in this example, less than 2%). If what we intend 
is for ALL paratypes to be nomenclaturally-significant, then we would 
have to re-write the Code to make it so.
> But nothing in 75.3.6 says or implies this. There is nothing in the Code that defines what differentiates between "nearly as practicable from the original type locality" and "not near enough". There are many factors that surround a selection being "practicable", e.g., one might not want to designate a specimen even from the exact original type locality if that specimen is in poor enough condition that would not serve stability.
Then find a better specimen. There are hundreds of museums in the world, 
and claiming that it isn't practicable for you to contact more than a 
handful of them when *virtually all of them have e-mail* is not a 
persuasive argument. Is the term "practicable" subjective? You bet it 
is!! The Code is jam-packed with little gems like that, just waiting for 
people to argue over them (just like we're doing now). ;-)
>   One may think it more practicable, with respect to stability of nomenclature, to select the "better" specimen even if it is farther from the original type locality than another specimen of the same sex.
Then go back to the type locality and collect a fresh one, or find 
someone else who can visit that locality for you. There are lots of 
biologists, and not that many places that no one can ever re-visit.
> Or one may not want to designate a neotype from the original type locality that is now a parking lot.
That is hardly a common occurrence.
> I cannot see this becoming subject to being set aside simply because someone found a specimen from closer to the original type locality (which of course, is no longer the type locality once the neotype is validly designated).
Invalid neotype designations are retroactive. If the neotype is not from 
the type locality, and other specimens exist which are, then the neotype 
was self-evidently not validly designated to begin with.
> In any case, Article 75.3.6 does not say that a neotype MUST originate from "as nearly as practicable to the original type locality". It says that one of the particulars to designating a neotype is that the author provide "evidence that the neotype came as nearly as practicable..." So this evidence is what matters, with practicability defined by that author, not whether there is some other specimen out there from closer.
Yes, but "I can't personally afford a trip to the type locality" is not 
evidence, nor is "I have to finish this thesis within the next 6 months, 
I don't have time to solicit more specimen loans" or "My grant didn't 
budget for a trip to Paris". Yes, that harsh attitude does ignore some 
of the real and awkward aspects of doing taxonomy, and I hope you 
realize that a large part of my stance is playing Devil's Advocate, but 
the plain fact is that the fulfillment of Art. 75.3 is NOT arbitrated by 
the Commission, so literally all it takes is ONE person who disputes 
one's neotype in print, and there is nothing the Commission can do to 
stop them from setting your neotype aside and putting theirs in its 
place. Accordingly, you had better dang well take those requirements 
very, very seriously, if you want your neotype to be immune from 
challenges. There are, in fact, people unscrupulous enough to destroy 
holotypes in order to replace them with specimens of their own, and 
others who spend their entire careers searching for unreplaced homonyms 
so they can become authors of replacement names, so I'm willing to bet 
that there are others who will happily replace neotypes if they are in a 
position to do so and the Code allows 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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