[Taxacom] manuscript name question

Stephen Thorpe stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz
Thu Oct 8 21:43:51 CDT 2015


I really hate the way that distinct issues are being conflated on this matter! The essence of the matter has nothing to do with photographs, but with preservation of primary types. Can you describe a new species without preservation of the (designated) primary type? Whether you include a photo, or a drawing, or just provide written description is not the issue. But there are two distinct scenarios: (1) your description is based on examination of the primary type, which is then discarded; or (2) you only know the primary type by way of a photo. In this case (the fly), we have scenario (2). Sure, just having a photo is nowhere near as good as having a whole specimen, but then having a fossil is nowhere near as good as having a freshly killed specimen. So, given a choice, one would prefer to have a freshly killed specimen, and one would prefer to preserve it indefinitely. But, if you only have a fossil, or only have a photo, and you have at most only a slim
 chance of ever getting hold of a freshly killed specimen, then it makes sense to make the most of what one does have. Hence, species are described based on fossil impressions in rock, cloudy amber inclusions, etc. So why not a photograph of a living specimen? Whether Marshall & Evenhuis should have waited to see if new material could be obtained is a moot point. There may not have been any real need to describe this fly now, except to feed the fires of Pensoft's desire for publicity. But these are all distinct issues to be weighed up and thought about. Knee jerk reactions against describing new species from photos really isn't helpful.

Stephen

--------------------------------------------
On Fri, 9/10/15, JF Mate <aphodiinaemate at gmail.com> wrote:

 Subject: Re: [Taxacom] manuscript name question
 To: "Taxacom" <taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu>
 Received: Friday, 9 October, 2015, 3:00 PM
 
 Dean:
 
 “There seems to be a negative reaction to the term "dead
 bodies" for animals
 that are preserved in museum collection. I find that
 curious.”
 
 I have never seen this term used in journals, which makes me
 suspect
 it was used as click-bait. It is not a direct way to explain
 things to
 “non-native” speakers, it is a catchy title plonked
 there in the hopes
 that BBC or CNN will report the paper (as they sometimes
 do). But
 publicity in a matter like this could have unintended
 consequences. It
 is already hard enough collecting “dead bodies”, imagine
 if you give
 them (PETA, WWF, any bureaucratic body,...) ammo through
 scientific
 legitimacy.
 
 “As to whether it's worth putting a name to a
 distinctively new species,
 isn't that rather the whole point of nomenclature?”
 
 You misunderstand me Dean. The point I am trying to make is
 that, if a
 particular species is doomed, keeping a couple of pictures
 is pretty
 much useless other than serving to name something.
 Nomenclature is
 important because it is the bedrock of something (biology,
 ecology,
 etc). Otherwise it is just a rock, a list of names (and you
 wouldn´t
 even be certain that the list is correct nor have the means
 to check).
 And physcial specimena or, lacking that, tissue samples,
 contain the
 information that gives “value” to the name.
 
 With a physical specimen I can not only verify the original
 hypothesis
 in the future, but also access a large amount of
 information
 pertaining to the species itself (biology, phylogenetics,
 feeding,
 etc). With a photograph I only have pixels, and they will be
 the same
 pixels forever.Its value as a store of information
 diminishes with the
 passage of time whereas physical specimens become more
 valuable (DNA,
 X- ray microtomography are just two recent examples I can
 think of).
 Photographs should be, IMO, a last resort when faced with no
 other
 choice, and to me this fly isn´t such a case. Fast and
 loose is a
 slippery slope to aliens and Nessie.
 
 Best
 
 Jason
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