[Taxacom] unrecognizable species, what to do...

Lawrence Kirkendall lawrence.kirkendall at bio.uib.no
Wed Sep 25 07:34:14 CDT 2013

I am a new member of Taxacom, so I don't know if this has been discussed recently.

As I understand it, one cannot normally designate a neotype when types can be found. But what do you do when your species, described in the 19th century, turns out to be a species complex, and because of the poor condition of the syntypes one cannot safely attribute any particular individual to any of the clades you can now recognize as separate species? The example my colleagues and I are struggling with is Hypothenemus eruditus Westwood (1836), a 1 mm - long species which may well be the most abundant and widespread bark beetle on the planet. We can separate a number of clades out, using a combination of molecular and morphological characters. Especially for such old mounted specimens, important diagnostic morphological characters for species in this genus (such the frons, or elytral puntures & setae) are frequently either hidden, worn, or at least partially covered with glue; in addition, old specimens are usually card-mounted, making even a visible frons almost impossile to view sufficiently well. The problem is not just with the syntype series for eruditus Westwood; the current catalog lists 75 synonyms, and my suspicion is that it is going to be hopeless, trying to associate the clades we can (finally) now recognize with older, synonymized names--especially bearing in mind that the species is globally distributed! 

What do aphidologists or acarologists do, in a species complex, if slide mounts have darkened to the point where critical characters can no longer be discerned, assuming that sufficiently detailed drawings do not exist?

Thanks for any advice,
Lawrence Kirkendall

Prof. Lawrence Kirkendall                     
Department of Biology             
Univ. Bergen
Thormøhlensgt 53a
N-5006 Bergen, Norway

Department of Biology
Postboks 7803
5020  BERGEN

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