[Taxacom] Why stability?

Stephen Thorpe stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz
Thu Apr 30 19:52:12 CDT 2015

I don't like this for the following reasons: 

(1)One fairly minor reason I don't like it is that it might not represent Robert's opinion in 2015, even though the website was visited me in 2015. Websites don't update themselves, and tend to get updated rather infrequently. I would not want to attribute to Robert an opinion which he might no longer have!

(2)We don't know on what basis Robert identified the image. he may or may not have based it on a published treatment. We don't know!

(3)I still maintain that there may not in fact be any taxon circumscription associated with that particular name! The fact that it is up on a website is not the point here. The crucial point is that I made an ID by direct comparison to a single specimen (image). How do you get a circumscription from a single specimen? You can't!

(4)Your last para is misleading. I am confident in Robert's judgement, whatever it is based upon. It sounds a bit like you are telling me that I shouldn't be doing something! But I'm not! If I knew that Robert did ID his image using "Smith 1995", and I wasn't confident in either "Smith 1995" or Robert (or both), then I would not use either of them as sources for any IDs, at least not without clearly stating my reservations.


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>, gaurav at ggvaidya.com
 Cc: "'Taxacom'" <taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu>
 Received: Friday, 1 May, 2015, 12:02 PM
 Gadira acerella Walker, 1866 sensu Hoare
 If Hoare had himself
 anchored his use of the name to a published treatment (e.g.,
 Smith 1995), then you could have likewise trusted
 Hoare's anchoring, and you could have represented it as
 "Gadira acerella Walker, 1866 sensu Smith
 It doesn't
 matter that you never consulted Smith 1995 in your
 identification, because as I and Guarav have pointed out
 (Guarav much more effectively than I did), we're not
 talking necessarily about what source you used to make the
 identification; we're talking about what taxon
 circumscription associated with that particular name
 you're referring to.
 you're not confident in Hoare's judgement in
 following Smith 1995, then you probably shouldn't be
 using Hoare as a source, and/or you probably should not be
 asserting identifications of specimens based on your
 consultation of that source.
 > -----Original
 > From: Stephen Thorpe
 [mailto:stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz]
 > Sent: Thursday, April 30, 2015 1:08 PM
 > To: deepreef at bishopmuseum.org;
 gaurav at ggvaidya.com
 > Cc: Taxacom
 > Subject:
 Re: [Taxacom] Why stability?
 > Here is a good example of an actual
 identification (by me) in actual practice:
 > http://naturewatch.org.nz/observations/1438142
 > When I saw the
 posted photo, I immediately thought Crambidae, but I had
 > absolutely no idea of genus or species,
 because I am not very familiar with N.Z.
 > crambids. However, the local lepidopterist
 (Dr. Robert Hoare) has created an
 > image
 gallery with photos of one (or two) specimen(s) of each N.Z.
 species of
 > that family (possibly not
 quite all of them), see:
 > http://www.landcareresearch.co.nz/resources/identification/animals/large-
 > moths/image-gallery/crambidae/crambidae.
 Browsing the gallery, I found one
 > image
 which, in my estimation, is a virtually perfect match
 > (http://www.landcareresearch.co.nz/__data/assets/image/0017/73007/Gadira
 > _acerella.jpg), while none of the other
 images are very close at all. Although it
 > is not quite 100% certain, I am 95+%
 confident that it is the same species,
 which is a  good enough level of certainty for most IDs
 (and certainly good
 > enough for this
 example). Nevertheless, I still have no "taxonomic
 concept" of
 > the species. I 
 simply trust Robert as a reliable source, and trust my
 > judgement of what constitutes a
 good match. I just don't see how to apply
 > Rich's ideas to this sort of
 identification - a sort that is very common.
 > Stephen
 > On Fri, 1/5/15, Gaurav Vaidya <gaurav at ggvaidya.com>
 >  Subject:
 Re: [Taxacom] Why stability?
 >  To:
 "Stephen Thorpe" <stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz>
 >  Cc: "Taxacom" <taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu>
 >  Received: Friday, 1 May, 2015, 10:53
 >  Hi
 >  >
 On 30 Apr 2015, at 4:27 pm, Stephen Thorpe <stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz>
 >  wrote:
 >  >
 >  > 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
 > 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).
 >  Sure you can! Rich gave an excellent
 example earlier: the  Mammal Species of
 > the World, 3rd Edition (MSW3) checklist, 
 which gives you a simple definition of
 a giraffe relative to  other closely related taxa that you
 can work with.
 > 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.
 > 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.
 >  The point here isn’t how the
 identification comes about,  but what name is
 > being attached to it. It absolutely takes
 a  huge amount of skill and knowledge
 to identify an individual  as a giraffe, particularly if
 you don’t have a whole
 > animal to look
 at. But when you make an identification  (“voucher
 #ABC123 is
 > _Giraffa camelopardalis_
 (Linnaeus,  1758)”), the question becomes: what do
 > you mean by  “Giraffa camelopardalis”
 in this context? For example,  do you
 agree with Thomas (1901: http://biodiversitylibrary.org/page/35988584)
 > _G.
 camelopardalis reticulata_ should be treated as a separate 
 species, or with
 > the modern view that
 it is a subspecies of  _camelopardalis_? If at some
 > date _reticulata_ is  split
 back out of _camelopardalis_, should voucher
 > #ABC123  provisionally remain with
 _camelopardalis_ sensu stricto, or  should
 > it be marked as “_camelopardalis_ or 
 _reticulata_” until it can be
 reidentified? One way of  doing this is to add “sensu
 MSW3”, which makes it
 > explicit that
 you’re thinking of the _camelopardalis_ that  includes
 > (http://www.departments.bucknell.edu/biology/resources/msw3/browse.asp?id
 > =14200476),
 whatever the fate of these taxa will eventually be.
 >  cheers,
 >  Gaurav

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