[Taxacom] manuscript name question

Stephen Thorpe stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz
Thu Oct 8 22:21:53 CDT 2015

Well, to further elucidate and develop my point of view: describing a species from a single specimen is nowhere near as good as having long series from different localities along the geographical range. Yet, new species based on singletons are described all the time. Again we can ask "was there really a need to describe them at this time, with only one specimen available?" Most of the time the answer would really have to be "no". Yet, we don't get such vehement reactions against such practice as we seem to be getting for the idea of description based on a photo. "Oh it's not science!" they bleat! Tell that to a paleontologist who can only see some of the characters in a fossil specimen, or to a marine taxonomist who works on taxa that collapse into a useless mess when captured (photos are a major part, though not the whole, of nudibranch taxonomy these days). So, my view is that we certainly should not start describing new species from photos
 willy-nilly, but for some taxa and some circumstances it may be appropriate to do so. Was it appropriate for the case of this fly? Perhaps Neal would like to explain why he thought it appropriate to proceed in this case ...


On Fri, 9/10/15, John Grehan <calabar.john at gmail.com> wrote:

 Subject: Re: [Taxacom] manuscript name question
 To: "Stephen Thorpe" <stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz>
 Cc: "Taxacom" <taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu>, "JF Mate" <aphodiinaemate at gmail.com>
 Received: Friday, 9 October, 2015, 3:56 PM
 don't think anyone is guilty of 'knee jerk'
 reactions. I think everyone, including yourself, is
 genuinely trying to articulate their various points of view
 as best or as precisely as they can. I have found all points
 of view, and responses, of interest.
 John Grehan
 On Thu, Oct 8, 2015 at
 10:43 PM, Stephen Thorpe <stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz>
 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.
 On Fri, 9/10/15, JF Mate <aphodiinaemate at gmail.com>
  Subject: Re: [Taxacom] manuscript name question
  To: "Taxacom" <taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu>
  Received: Friday, 9 October, 2015, 3:00 PM
  “There seems to be a negative reaction to the term
  bodies" for animals
  that are preserved in museum collection. I find that
  I have never seen this term used in journals, which makes
  it was used as click-bait. It is not a direct way to
  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
  do). But
  publicity in a matter like this could have unintended
  consequences. It
  is already hard enough collecting “dead bodies”,
  if you give
  them (PETA, WWF, any bureaucratic body,...) ammo
  “As to whether it's worth putting a name to a
  distinctively new species,
  isn't that rather the whole point of
  You misunderstand me Dean. The point I am trying to make
  that, if a
  particular species is doomed, keeping a couple of
  is pretty
  much useless other than serving to name something.
  Nomenclature is
  important because it is the bedrock of something
  etc). Otherwise it is just a rock, a list of names (and
  even be certain that the list is correct nor have the
  to check).
  And physcial specimena or, lacking that, tissue
  contain the
  information that gives “value” to the name.
  With a physical specimen I can not only verify the
  in the future, but also access a large amount of
  pertaining to the species itself (biology,
  etc). With a photograph I only have pixels, and they will
  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
  think of).
  Photographs should be, IMO, a last resort when faced with
  choice, and to me this fly isn´t such a case. Fast and
  loose is a
  slippery slope to aliens and Nessie.
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