[Taxacom] Why stability?

Stephen Thorpe stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz
Thu Apr 30 17:27:24 CDT 2015

Hi Rich,

I think your confusion may stem from not keeping in mind the dialectic context in which I made my comments. I was responding to others who had suggested that authors should always cite the publication used for the identification of any species that they mention. Basically, their motivation is probably merely to increase citation rates in taxonomy. My comment was intended to point out that, in a great many cases, identifications are not made using any specific publication, even identifications down to the species level. Many names do not have any well defined "taxonomic concepts" associated with them, but may nevertheless be names for distinctive species which are easily identified by direct comparison of specimens (given a bit of experience with the group). For something of an example, I'm sure you can recognise a giraffe if you see one, but you probably cannot point to any well defined "taxonomic concept" (or, if you can, you didn't rely on it to make
 the identification). In many cases, identifications may be based on a very complex set of things, including several publications and specimens examined, which would not be easy or even possible to spell out as "sensu ..." or "sec ..." Sometimes, for example, one does use a publication to identify a specimen, but the key may give a different result to the description, and both may give a different result to comparing a specimen with the illustrations in the publication. Identification is more of a "wholistic" thing, taking into account all available evidence. Also, your idea of citing something like "sensu Person who identified it for me" wouldn't count for citation metrics, so really isn't what this dialectic was originally about.



On Fri, 1/5/15, Richard Pyle <deepreef at bishopmuseum.org> wrote:

 Subject: RE: [Taxacom] Why stability?
 To: "'Stephen Thorpe'" <stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz>, "'JF Mate'" <aphodiinaemate at gmail.com>, "'Taxacom'" <taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu>
 Received: Friday, 1 May, 2015, 9:57 AM
 Hi Stephen,
 I'm very confused about
 your statements on this thread. This issue is not
 about "basing specimen identifications on
 publications", as you seem to keep
 coming back to.  This thread is about more
 explicitly representing taxon
 names in the
 context of a taxon concept.  Specimen identifications
 certainly one aspect of taxonomy where
 this practice is valuable, but it
 more generally to *any* references to taxon names.
 Let's start with your
 example of Homo sapiens.  Yes Linnaeus initially
 established the name, and when he did so he had
 in mind a taxonomic
 circumscription of
 organisms to which he would apply that name to.  We
 make a citation to "Homo sapiens
 Linnaeus 1758 sensu Linneaus 1758"; but as
 you say his description was wanting; and
 indeed, his circumscription may not
 perfectly coincide with the concept of
 "Homo sapiens" that a modern
 taxonomist would like to refer to (e.g., many
 more species of Homo and
 related genera were
 established from fossil material after Linnaeus, so
 not clear which of these Linnaeus
 would have included in his
 circumscription).  So, you could certainly
 refer to "Homo sapiens Linnaeus
 sensu Linneaus 1758"; but I doubt most modern
 researchers would do so.
 Instead, a better citation might be something
 like "Homo sapiens Linnaeus
 1758 sensu
 Wilson & Reeder 2005".  This circumscription
 included a number of
 synonyms within it
 which gives us a somewhat more precise idea of
 the set of organisms implied
 by the name
 "Homo sapiens".
 You also made reference to many species that
 need to be identified, but for
 which only
 one or a few old taxonomic works are available.  I
 disagree.  But I'm not sure
 what your point is about why this has any impact
 on the practice of consistently citing
 "sensu" references.
 Let's take the example of "Aus bus
 Smith 1850".  Let's suppose not a single
 published work ever cited this name since its
 original description, in any
 whatsoever. Fair enough -- there are likely many such names
 Now, in 2015, you come across a specimen in a
 Museum that you feel confident
 conspecific with the type specimen Smith 1850 assigned to
 the species
 "Aus bus".  Are you
 saying that you might possibly have a different taxon
 concept in mind than when Smith 1850 first
 established the name?  If so,
 then what is
 this difference based on? Keep in mind that no one has
 published any reference to this species
 since Smith's original publication.
 somehow you ae confident that the taxon concept that you
 wish to ascribe
 to the name "Aus
 bus" is different from the concept implied by Smith in
 original 1850 publication.
 I certainly agree this
 situation is possible (especially for taxonomists who
 are actively working on a major revision of a
 group, and have looked at
 thousands of
 specimens, etc.)  But I don't think it's quite as
 common a
 situation as you make it out to
 be.  And even in these cases, there is
 nothing stopping you from declaring it as
 "Aus bus Smith 1850 sensu Thorpe
 2015".  There is no requirement that the
 information following the "sensu"
 must be citation to a publication.  The
 purpose is just to anchor the name
 to a
 particular usage of that name, to give some greater clarity
 for what
 taxon concept is implied by that
 particular usage of the name.  Granted, it
 makes a LOT more sense, to cite a publication,
 if and when one is available
 -- because that
 means everyone has access to it (only a limited number of
 people have access to the content inside
 Stephen Thorpe's brain...)
 One more point -- in these cases where there
 have been few, if any
 subsequent treatments
 of a particular name, the need to pin down a usage of
 a name to one particular concept is much lower,
 because there is much less
 confusion about what concept is implied.  The importance of
 "sensu" qualifier is
 increasingly important in cases where there ARE
 multiple competing concepts for a name (some
 stricto, some lato, etc.). If
 there are
 multiple competing concepts, then there are likely to be
 publications attached to alternate
 it's sort of a nice self-correcting situation:  Cases
 with the fewest
 options for citing as
 "sensu" also have the least need for it.
 -----Original Message-----
 > From:
 Stephen Thorpe [mailto:stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz]
 > Sent: Thursday, April 30, 2015 11:24 AM
 > To: 'JF Mate'; 'Taxacom';
 deepreef at bishopmuseum.org
 > Subject: Re: [Taxacom] Why stability?
 > Rich,
 > I suspect that you
 have already invested too much time and effort in this
 > "sensu" (or "sec")
 notion to want to backtrack now, but some of what is
 > said on the subject
 just isn't true! There are a great many species,
 > routinely
 identified for various purposes, but for which there is
 > upon
 which the IDs are based. That is an undeniable fact, like it
 or not!
 Even in
 > botany
 this is true. Botanists here routinely identify exotic
 growing in
 cultivation in gardens and parks, and there are often no
 modern taxonomic
 > treatments of the
 species concerned. If one were to adopt a "sensu"
 system across the board, it would add greatly to complexity,
 while adding
 > or
 nothing of any use. It might get a few more citations for a
 few more
 > taxonomic publications, but
 that's about it, and I don't care about that.
 > publication do you
 suggest that we cite for identification of Homo
 > Linnaeus'
 original description is  pretty useless.
 > Stephen
 > On Fri, 1/5/15, Richard Pyle <deepreef at bishopmuseum.org>
 >  Subject:
 Re: [Taxacom] Why stability?
 >  To:
 "'JF Mate'" <aphodiinaemate at gmail.com>,
 > <taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu>
 >  Received: Friday, 1 May, 2015, 6:05
 >  Errr....
 yeah.  What he
 >  said.
 >  Rich
 >  >
 >  Message-----
 >  > From: Taxacom [mailto:taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu]
 >  On Behalf Of
 >  >
 JF Mate
 >  > Sent: Wednesday, April
 29, 2015 3:15 PM  > To: Taxacom  > Subject:
 >  Re: [Taxacom] Why stability?
 >  >
 >  > 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
 > I.D. label and the  year  > you tell
 others more or less at  what stage of
 > 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
 > Baraud and
 Balthasar most of  the time. In 50  > years we may
 > 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
 > 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
 >  >
 > 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  >
 > 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
 >  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
 > the local fauna, rather  than by way of a
 specific publication.
 >  >
 >  Many species can only be identified by a
 historical chain of  IDs,
 > 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
 >  <Mary.Barkworth at usu.edu>
 >  wrote:
 >  >
 >  > >
 Subject: Re: [Taxacom] Why stability?
 >  >  To: "JF Mate"
 <aphodiinaemate at gmail.com>, 
 >  > > <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  > >
 > used for  identification in giving a
 scientific  name but the  > >
 insistence by
 > taxonomists
 that one  should cite  the original author(s)  > 
 > of the
 and that this  provides accuracy of  interpretation.
 >  > > It was not until
 >  the  Vienna Botanical Congress of 2005
 (or  > > thereabouts) that the 
 > 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
 >  > > 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  > >
 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
 > whether it has ever  had
 another  concept, or  > > that they are using
 > concept they  have
 >  >
 >  >  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
 > We should not be  surprised  if it takes
 a similar length of  > > time to
 > the practice.
 >  > >  Do those of you that are
 >  editors ask for information 
 as to
 >  >
 > the reference used for an identification or for the 
 original authors
 > > of the
 > combination.
 >  >
 >  Mary
 >  > >
 >  > >
 >  >
 >  > >
 > >
 >  > >  Taxacom Mailing List
 >  > >  Taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
 >  > >  http://mailman.nhm.ku.edu/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo/taxacom
 >  > >  The Taxacom Archive back to
 >  may be  searched at:
 >  > > http://taxacom.markmail.org
 >  > >
 >  >
 >  Celebrating 28 years of
 >  > >  Taxacom
 >  in 2015.
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