[Taxacom] manuscript name question

Mike Sadka mike.sadka at nhm.ac.uk
Fri Oct 9 03:58:53 CDT 2015

> Fast and loose is a slippery slope to aliens and Nessie.

Too late to avoid that!  Nessie was named from a photograph by Sir Peter Scott in 1975...


From: Taxacom [taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu] on behalf of JF Mate [aphodiinaemate at gmail.com]
Sent: 09 October 2015 03:00
To: Taxacom
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] manuscript name question


“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

“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.


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