[Taxacom] why Martin Fikacek resign

John Noyes j.noyes at nhm.ac.uk
Fri Oct 9 04:30:41 CDT 2015


It seems that in this case it should be possible to designate a neotype from an extant, preserved specimen. So much the better if the neotype is the holotype of a previously described species so that the  "new" species can be treated as a junior synonym [although in this particular case that seems unlikely]. It can be safely assumed that the photographed holotype no longer exists. So long as the specimen designated as neotype is pretty damned similar to the one in the photograph and all other conditions of designating a neotype are met according to the ICZN then I cannot see a problem. 

Maybe that is too mischievous??


John Noyes
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-----Original Message-----
From: Taxacom [mailto:taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu] On Behalf Of Stephen Thorpe
Sent: 07 October 2015 21:04
To: taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu; bayshark at exemail.com.au
Cc: penev at pensoft.net
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] why Martin Fikacek resign

I'm sure that people are playing right into Lyubo's hands by adding to the publicity about this (any publicity is good publicity!) Pensoft are a commercial publisher. I have pretty much given up on them as well, largely because Biodiversity Data Journal has now become little more than a venue for promotional papers, miles away from its initially stated philosophy.

Nevertheless, many of the reasons cited against describing new species from photos are quite unconvincing. Why is palaeontology considered to be science? An impression in rock, or a partly obscured amber inclusion are both on a par with a photograph, given that you can't see all the relevant characters, you can't dissect, and you can't extract DNA (most of the time).

It would be a very bad idea to describe a new species of hydrophilid beetle (Martin Fikacek's speciality) from photograph(s) of a live specimen, but this may not apply equally to other groups of organisms. Iterestingly, Fikacek does describe fossil hydrophilids!

One thing, however, that Marshall & Evenhuis did misinterpret from the Code relates to "Designation of an illustration of a single specimen as a holotype is to be treated as designation of the specimen illustrated". This is actually quite irrelevant! Designating a specimen as holotype via a photograph, is what Marshall & Evenhuis have done. This is very different from designating a photograph of a specimen as holotype! The above quote from the Code simply reduces the latter to the former, but that is irrelevant here.

As for Vratislav's P.S.: >If this will continue, anybody can create not just new species, but complete new family using just Photoshop.<

Anybody can and always could do effectively that anyway. Write a verbal description based on fictional characters, maybe add a few fanciful drawings, and conveniently claim the holotype to have been subsequently lost. Lost holotypes do not invalidate described taxa.


On Wed, 7/10/15, bayshark at exemail.com.au <bayshark at exemail.com.au> wrote:

 Subject: [Taxacom] why Martin Fikacek resign
 To: taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
 Received: Wednesday, 7 October, 2015, 9:44 PM
 I just resigned for the position of editor in ZooKeys for  two reasons: by  the recent publication of a description of a new species  based on photos  ZooKeys evidently decided for the direction of "bad science  and good  publicity" which is the direction I cannot support. In  addition, they  recently introduced a new automatic system "bullying"
 editors, which now
 makes editors basically non-paid slaves with very limited  decision power. I  simply cannot work for such a journal anymore. Sorry to  everybody, and  thanks for years of author-editor cooperation.
 My letter to editors is attached below:  
 Dear editors,
 I was really shocked when I discovered the paper entitled  "New species  without dead bodies: a case for photobased descriptions,  illustrated by a  striking new species of Marleyimyia Hesse (Diptera,
 Bombyliidae) from South
 Africa" published few days ago in ZooKeys. The paper is  exremely dangerous  for several aspects:
 (1) It misuses the weak parts of the Code which were  originally designed to  keep some very old names valid, which were described in  historical  publications mostly in 18th century. In difference to what  the authors are  writing in the paper, this Article was not designed to solve  the situation  with lost holotypes, but to keep valid the names which were  really based  only on illustrations in times when no rules were given as  it concerns the  quality of taxonomic descriptions. Using the same Article  for today is  really ridiculous attempt to use this Article to cheat the  system. Moreover,  note the word "illustration" in the text of the Article  (i.e. NOT a
 (2) It makes a very dangerous precedence for future  generations. Now  everybody may try to describe a new big insect (cetonid  beetle, wasp,
 butterfly) based just on the photographs. I am sure good  entomologists will  not do that, or would at least do that only once all needed  characters are  really visible. Unfortunately the entomology is full of  crazy individuals  focused only in describing new taxa and producing new names,  no need to give  examples as everybody knows some of them. These individuals  were difficult  to deal with even until now, basically producing chaos in  taxonomy of  particular group and partly causing that taxonomy is often  considered as  non-scientific. You now opened a brand new way for these  people how to do  even worse work!
 (3) In my opinion neither the authors of the above paper,  nor the editorial  board is evidently not aware of the reason why voucher  specimen (holotype)  is needed when a species is describe. It is not because the  author should  have it easy to illustrate all needed characters. It it  because only the  specimen itself form a firm base for the name. All taxonomic  work,  identification of next specimens found etc. is in fact  testing the  hypothesis that the specimens in your hand are conspecific  with the  holotype.  To test that hypothesis, you may re-examine  the holotype, extract  new characters which were not stated or illustrated in the  original  description etc. Testing the hypothesis and providing the  way how to falsify  it is what makes taxonomy a science! In case of the new  South African  species, nothing of this is possible - nobody will ever be  able to test the  hypothesis that the specimens in hand are conspecific with  the holotype (and  no other characters will be ever known than those  illustrated on the  photos). This basically moves this paper (and taxonomy in
 general) REALLY
 OUT OF SCIENCE. Hence, this is a step backward, not an  innovative way as you  present it.   
 I appreciate the effort of Pensoft and ZooKeys to try  innovative ways of  taxonomic publishing. However, I would expect that you would  think about  your steps and decision properly, evaluating the possible  risks of such  steps for the future of taxonomy. I did not notice anything  like that in  your actions and decisions within last months, including the  publication of  the above paper. Editorial board is never consulted in such  cases, and if  the editors provide their critique, this is rarely followed.
 In opposite,
 you recently introduced a system of "bullying" the editors.
 I understand all
 these actions in the way that editors are just workers you  use FOR FREE (we  are not paid for that), but never as partners with whom  problematic things  should be discussed.
 To sum up - by publishing the photo-based description of  Marleyimyia,  ZooKeys moves into the position of journals trying to break  up the good  practices in taxonomy for the sake of publicity. Its not  only "the border of  taxonomic malpractice", it is in fact the "border of  non-science". I do not  want to provide my time to the journal going in this really  dangerous  direction. That is why I am resigning immediatelly from the  editorial board  of ZooKeys.
 Thanks for understanding!
 With best regards
 (name) Vratislav Richard Eugene Maria John Baptist
 (surname) of Bejšák (read as a
 website: www.coleoptera.org
 address: P.O.Box 3335 , Redfern, NSW 2016  AUSTRALIA
 phone : +61 0420602040
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