[Taxacom] Neoromicia nanus or Neoromicia nana?

Francisco Welter-Schultes fwelter at gwdg.de
Wed Jan 15 08:07:34 CST 2014


The experience I have says that if the number of names in a list exceeds a
number of around 2000, getting the error rate down to zero will become
most unlikely. 2000 seems to be some kind of a limit. Usual error rates in
longer lists range around 2-5 %, also depending on how many data are
incorporated to each entry.

The project with the lowest degree of error rates was probably C. D.
Sherborn's Index Animalium, where one person accumulated data on name,
original combination, authorship, availability, original source and date
for about 300,000 names during more than 43 years of professional work,
one single person without team, and full-time. Individual error rates in
this compilation range about 1-2 % (we must neglect the additional
systematic error rates in this evaluation).

You are right that taxonomy and nomenclature should not be mixed. My
argument was not sufficiently solid, and I did not bring up the problem
sufficiently clearly to the point.
In the AnimalBase project we established a list of some 50,000 names from
a purely nomenclatural point of view, and followed what you just have
suggested, nomenclatural expertise largely disregarding taxonomic
expertise. Our experience was however, that in the coordination of the
20-persons team it was useful to build taxonomic clusters during the work,
so that some students became more skilled in insects, others more in
vertebrates, again others in molluscs. This was because some taxonomic
expertise was needed in the purely nomenclatural tasks. For example it was
necessary that the students became familiar with certain generic names, so
that they were able to judge if a name alba mentioned in one genus was a
new name or just a subsequent use of a name alba established 10 years
before in a different genus. Also Sherborn had this problem and took
occasionally incorrect conclusions.

The experience also says that with more people working on such a list, the
error rate will not get below Sherborn's values which we may consider as
history's best.

All this suggests that rules to deal with such errors will be needed, also
after an entry would have obtained a relatively definite status.


> On 1/14/14 1:03 PM, Francisco Welter-Schultes wrote:
>> Doug,
>> I appreciate your valuable suggestions and contributions to such
>> discussions. Your proposal sounds good, at least from a theoretical
>> point
>> of view. For the practical life I would modify the time spans and say,
>> at
>> least one year is fine, but I would add an additional requirement that
>> at
>> least 4 or 5 independent researchers with approved experise in the
>> discipline (I see the difficulty to define such a status) must confirm
>> the
>> correctness of an entry, before the entry gets an approved status. Maybe
>> these thoughts are already incorporated in your model. Just absence of
>> sufficient affirmative comments within 3 or 5 years should not
>> automatically lead to modifying the official status of a name.
> At this stage, the model we are considering is self-selected
> auto-notification for everyone who is a registered user of ZooBank.
> Users would go to a long checklist of keywords, and select which
> keywords were of interest, alone or in combination. For example, you
> might decide upon "Palaearctic" for biogeographical region, "Mollusca"
> for taxon, and combine them - so any time a name is placed in ZooBank
> that has both keywords (Palaearctic AND Mollusca), you would be
> automatically sent an e-mail notification, saying you have one year from
> that date to review the entry, at your discretion. If there were 500
> people who also used that same combination of keywords, then all 500
> would get the same e-mail notification simultaneously, and have the same
> year to review each entry. I would presume that out of several hundred
> people getting an e-mail, finding 4 or 5 who would respond is not going
> to be difficult. Those who failed to act within a year would have no
> grounds for complaint when the decision is finalized without their
> input; a year is plenty of time to raise one's objections (I call this
> the "Speak now or forever hold your peace" principle). Note also that
> any ZooBank records which are disputed would be flagged, triggering a
> different set of notifications and a modification of the verification
> process (e.g., each such case would be assigned an impartial referee).
>> My experience is that at least malacologists may easily take more than
>> ten
>> years until an expert finds the time to work on such an issue. In many
>> subgroups it's 20 years. This is due to the unpaid nature of
>> professional
>> work in this field.
> It sounds like we may be confusing taxonomy with nomenclature here. It
> should not require waiting for a taxonomic expert in order to determine
> whether a name is available, who the author was, what the date and
> journal was, what type specimens or taxa were involved, what the
> original spelling was, and grammatical status (gender of genus names,
> and whether epithets are nouns). Most of that should be easily resolved
> by anyone, expert or not, unpaid or not, malacologist or not, with
> access to the original descriptions, and the Code. Experts are needed
> for decisions regarding validity and synonymy, or phylogeny, which are
> outside of the scope of ZooBank and the ICZN. Bear in mind that when one
> is dealing with nomenclature, one does not need to be an authority on a
> group to know how the Code should apply in a given situation. Therefore,
> instead of a nomenclatural dispute among malacologists being limited to
> review just by malacologists, it would be open to review by *any other
> registered ZooBank users*, regardless of discipline. Nomenclature is not
> discipline-limited; the same exact nomenclatural rules apply whether it
> is a mollusc, insect, snake, or dinosaur! The idea is, after all, to
> AVOID cliques and infighting, not to encourage such destructive practices.
> Sincerely,
> --
> 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)
>               http://cache.ucr.edu/~heraty/yanega.html
>    "There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness
>          is the true method" - Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chap. 82

Francisco Welter-Schultes
Zoologisches Institut, Berliner Str. 28, D-37073 Goettingen
Phone +49 551 395536

More information about the Taxacom mailing list