[Taxacom] Why stability?

Weakley, Alan weakley at bio.unc.edu
Wed Apr 29 21:22:09 CDT 2015

In museums/herbaria, papers, checklists, databases, etc. -- essentially all uses of specimen or observation data -- it is critical to know the taxonomic schema being employed.  IF (in any of those contexts) it is stated "Andropogon virginicus Linnaeus" (which is actually no more meaningful in taxonomic practice than "Andropogon virginicus", because there is no other nomenclatural author of "Andropogon virginicus" than Linnaeus), there is great ambiguity as to the meaning.  Citing sensu (or sec) a particular flora or monograph is IMMENSELY helpful (example:  sec Chris Campbell in Flora of North America 2007).  The specimen or observation might still be misidentified, but at least one knows what the identifier was trying to identify it to:  A, or A+B+C, or A+B+C+D+E+F, or A+B+C+D+E+F+G+H, or A+B+G+H (the type is within the concept of A).  Without the 'sensu' or 'sec', we are left with (mostly fruitless) conjecture about sensu strictissimo, sensu stricto, sensu lato, or sensu latissimo.  Or the prospect of just degrading all the information to the broadest possibility.  In our herbarium we encourage use of the sec or sensu, and many collectors do.  It will save a lot of fruitless time-wasting we in this community can't afford, of the kind of "well, in 1947 when Bob Godfrey labeled a specimen Andropogon virginicus, did he mean A or one of the other broader combinations of what we now recognize as 10 or 11 separate taxa, and if so which of those combinations did he mean?  Can we figure out his taxonomic concepts then by looking at all his Andropogon specimens from that year, and/or the paper he published in 1953, or the letter to his wife?  Or should we just assume we can know nothing and just re-identify all 10,000 Andropogon specimens in the Southeastern United States, because all past IDs have no secure meaning?  Wouldn't it be simpler if he had put on the label "Andropogon virginicus L., sensu Small 1933"?   

This is of course the reason data aggregation is so difficult and some of the attempts so frustrating.  The usefulness of data aggregation can withstand the occasional misidentification (and these may stand out in various ways and can then be corrected) -- a great example is the CalFlora webpage which highlights records that "seem odd".  The usefulness of data aggregation cannot withstand pulling information together and attaching it to the name "Andropogon virginicus" when some of the data means Andropogon virginicus "A" and some of it means Andropogon "A+B+C+D+E+G+H" (and some of it some of the other schemas).  Then the aggregated data distort the truth about each one of A, B, C, D, E, F, G, and H.  

-----Original Message-----
From: Taxacom [mailto:taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu] On Behalf Of JF Mate
Sent: Wednesday, April 29, 2015 9:37 PM
To: Taxacom
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] Why stability?

"Hence there is no publication to cite for the identification."

Here is the kernel of inaccuracy. I have (and I suspect most people in Taxacom do as well, either in cellulose or digital) a large collection of things called books which are called upo as our external brain hard-driveI. No just for Europe or North America, poor in species as they may be, but for many areas in the world. There are many groups without modern keys, I grant you that, but when keys are available, citing them is a useful for those who will come after. In fact NZ has a number of modern keys covering many Coleoptera groups (can´t comment on what I don´t know). Are you tellng me you don´t use them?


On 30 April 2015 at 03:21, Stephen Thorpe <stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz> wrote:
> Sorry Jason, but I was not incorrect! As I said, many (perhaps most) species are not identifiable from the literature. Most insect IDs (at least in this country) are done by somebody directly comparing specimens to already identified specimens in collections. Typically, the only thing published is a useless original description from the 1800s or something. Hence there is no publication to cite for the identification. "Experience" enters the issue because the result of comparing specimens depends on the experience of the person doing the comparison, i.e. a newbee will typically make lots of mistakes.
> Stephen
> --------------------------------------------
> On Thu, 30/4/15, JF Mate <aphodiinaemate at gmail.com> wrote:
>  Subject: Re: [Taxacom] Why stability?
>  To: "Taxacom" <taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu>
>  Received: Thursday, 30 April, 2015, 1:15 PM
>  Sorry Stephen but this is
>  incorrect. Everybody´s "experience" is a  combination of actual 
> experience (burning the  midnight oil comparing  own material against  
> identified specimens in a museum or advice from  colleagues or mentors 
> that we have internalised  and made our own for
>  example) and
>  literature. By putting your name on the I.D. label and  the year you 
> tell others more or less at what  stage of your experience  you where 
> at when  you attached the label. The "sec" is to indicate  on  which 
> authors you rely on (let´s face  it, nobody is an expert in every  
> group). For  example, in Europe if you work on scarabs you rely on  
> Baraud and Balthasar most of the time. In 50  years we may have  
> different ones but it  would be helpful to know which one you owned or  
> used most often or a that time. As a practical  example think of  
> Aphodius fimetarius. Since
>  2001 I write "sensu Wilson 2001" to make it  clear that the concept I 
> am using acknowledges  the specific  distinctiveness of pedellus.
>  As to citing the authority, I
>  see it as part of the binomial. It makes  communication more 
> accurate.
>  Jason
>  On 30 April 2015 at 01:15, Stephen Thorpe  
> <stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz>
>  wrote:
>  > What Mary said is, IMHO,
>  somewhat mixed up and confused! One should cite the authors  of the 
> original combination primarily for nomenclatural (not  taxonomic 
> reasons). Botany confuses the issue by making  combinations a 
> nomenclatural matter. Zoology treats them  (almost entirely) as 
> taxonomic. The "reference used for  the identification" is another 
> matter altogether. Most  IDs published in ecological studies are done 
> by people  ("experts"), who, like myself, identify taxa based  more on 
> experience/memory with relevant collections and  familiarity with the 
> local fauna, rather than by way of a  specific publication. Many 
> species can only be identified by  a historical chain of IDs, 
> hopefully involving comparision  to the type at some stage along the 
> way. They cannot be  identified from the literature.
>  >
>  > Stephen
>  >
>  >
>  >
>  --------------------------------------------
>  > On Thu, 30/4/15, Mary Barkworth <Mary.Barkworth at usu.edu>
>  wrote:
>  >
>  >  Subject:
>  Re: [Taxacom] Why stability?
>  >  To:
>  "JF Mate" <aphodiinaemate at gmail.com>,  "Taxacom" 
> <taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu>  >  Received: Thursday, 30 April, 2015,
>  10:51 AM
>  >
>  >  IMO. It
>  is not the lack
>  >  of a catchy name that
>  has prevented the practice of citing
>  >
>  the reference used for identification in giving a  scientific  >  
> name but the insistence by  taxonomists that one should cite  >  the  
> original author(s) of the combination and that this  >  provides 
> accuracy of interpretation. It  was not until the  >  Vienna Botanical  
> Congress of 2005 (or thereabouts) that the  >  wording the botanical 
> code read "In  publications,  >  particularly those  dealing with 
> taxonomy and nomenclature,  >  it **may** be desirable, even when no  
> bibliographic  >  reference to the  protologue is made, to cite the 
> author(s)  >  of the name concerned ...". Before  that it read as if  
> >  one always had to  cite the authors - and all journal and  >  book 
> editors wanted the works they  published seen to be good  >  science 
> so  they required citation of the original authors  >  and people that 
> became faculty said it  was necessary too.
>  >
>  >  So we have to change a culture. That  is  >  always difficult.  I 
> have been  told I do not understand  >  nomenclature  for  arguing 
> that one should cite the  >  reference used to determine the name (a  
> flora or some such).
>  >  The objections
>  that I have heard are that someone is simply  >  using the name they 
> were told by someone  else or that they  >  know the plant so  well 
> they do not know whether it has ever  >  had another concept, or that 
> they are  using the concept they  >  have  developed.
>  >  One reason I like the
>  >  Symbiota data entry form is that it  provides for citing the  >  
> reference  used (although perhaps it should be visible by  >  
> default?) but taxonomists have spent  decades convincing  >  people 
> that, to be  good science, the original authors of  >  scientific 
> names should be cited. We should not be  surprised  >  if it takes a 
> similar  length of time to change the practice.
>  >  Do those of you that are journal editors  ask for information  >  
> as to the  reference used for an identification or for the  >  
> original authors of the combination.
>  >  Mary
>  >
>  >
>  >
>  >
>  >
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