[Taxacom] manuscript name question

Dean Pentcheff pentcheff at gmail.com
Fri Oct 9 11:51:14 CDT 2015


Perhaps it was intended to be catchy. If so, I think that's a great idea.
This paper was specifically intended to encourage discussion of fundamental
issues beyond the taxon involved. Contracting the title to its functional
core, "A striking new species of Marleyimyia Hesse (Diptera, Bombyliidae)
from South Africa", would have been correct but less suited to the purpose.

I agree with your other points — having a physical specimen is _far_ more
valuable than only an image of it. No contest.

But I see that as a continuum (a slope, perhaps, but not necessarily
slippery). A specimen that can be used for morphology, genetics,
microtomography, and other not-yet-invented techniques is great! In the
field where I work most, we have thousands of species of marine
invertebrates where the type (and often only) specimen was preserved in
formalin. Because we can't get (useful) DNA out of it, are those specimens
useless? Of course not — they're far better than a photograph.

But if the only record we have of what is more-than-likely a new species is
a photograph, I'm fine with using it to name something. Capturing a trace
of diversity is better than no information at all.

-Dean
-- 
Dean Pentcheff
pentcheff at gmail.com

On Fri, Oct 9, 2015 at 2:00 AM, JF Mate <aphodiinaemate at gmail.com> wrote:

> 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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