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

Doug Yanega dyanega at ucr.edu
Wed Sep 25 11:19:16 CDT 2013

On 9/25/13 5:34 AM, Lawrence Kirkendall wrote:
> 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?
Speaking as an ICZN Commissioner, there's no rule that a neotype can't 
be designated if types still exist. Your situation is exactly why 
Article 75.5 exists; you write an application to the Commission 
explaining why the extant type(s) are inadequate, focusing on how 
important the name in question happens to be (VERY important, in your 
case), and ask that the Commission uses its plenary powers to set aside 
the existing type(s) in favor of a neotype (which must fulfill all the 
criteria listed under Art. 75.3).

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. If the original type locality was vague, then your 
application should give any and all argumentation and evidence that 
might narrow down that original locality (e.g., "The collector of the 
syntype series never set foot outside of Sweden"), and then you would 
select a neotype from a compatible site - at that point, your more 
refined locality becomes the NEW type locality (see Art. 76.3). Note 
also that if you determine that the only species that occurs at the type 
locality is NOT the taxon presently recognized under that name, you can 
invoke Art. 75.6 to re-assign the name to the correct taxon, even if 
it's from a different locality.

My point is that you have a lot of options available to you, all 
designed for stability's sake. The final point is that if you believe 
that genetic differentiation is going to be a crucial issue, then make 
sure that your neotype has been definitively sequenced.

If you read a few issues of the BZN you'll find many cases invoking Art. 
75.5, and you can use one of those as a template. The BZN and Code are 
both online at http://iczn.org/

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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