[Taxacom] manuscript name question

Richard Pyle deepreef at bishopmuseum.org
Fri Oct 9 18:35:17 CDT 2015

I've been quietly enjoying this thread, and generally agree with all sides of the issue (but perhaps less adamantly than some others have).

As for species descriptions that lack an Extant Type Specimen Deposited in Museum Collections ("ETSDMB" is WAY more scientific-sounding than "dead bodies"), it certainly would have been much better if there were at least some tissue or DNA for the holotype of Nessie. That way it would have achieved the same level of scientific integrity as the description of Homo sapiens cognatus (Google it).

In case the point was too subtle:  Folks, with or without an ETSDMB, there is plenty of room for good science, and for bad science.  In my opinion, the article that started this discussion (description of Marleyimyia xylocopae) is very much within the "good science" realm.  It was unambiguously Code-compliant (which already makes it better than many other attempted new species descriptions these days).  It included ample evidence to support the assertion that the taxon is distinct from all other known taxa at the species level.  It's an interesting species worthy of having a new name. And, there is good rationale included within the paper justifying the new name even in the absence of an ETSDMB. But most of all, it's good science because the authors confronted a complex issue in a careful and thoughtful way, and shined a light on a corner of our field that probably deserves some robust debate and discussion (witness these two parallel threads on Taxacom!)

Imagine if the authors of M. xylocopae had decided to wait years (decades?) until an ETSDMB could be secured before assigning a name.  In the meantime, people would have three basic options:

1. Pretend that that super-cool mimic fly didn't exist -- which would effectively relegate this photo:
to the same class as this photo:

2. Acknowledge that the beast exists, but refer to it as "that super-cool fly in South Africa that has a bright yellow spot on its back and mimics a carpenter bee" (Pre-Linnean nomenclature translated to English?)

3. Acknowledge that the beast exists, and give it some place-holder name (e.g., Marleyimyia sp.SA001), which is not anchored to ANY type specimen (extant or otherwise), and which is not governed by any Code of nomenclature, and which will add even more clutter to taxonomic nomen-space.

Personally, I think the authors (and ZooKeys editor/reviewers) made the right call in this case.

We ALL agree that an extant type specimen (i.e., one that can be accessed by future researchers) is MUCH preferable.  But in certain rare cases (and they are still rare -- the slope has been around for decades, but is evidently not very slippery), there are reasons why people would like to establish a name for species even without an ETSDMB.  Sometimes it is well-justified and taxonomically sound (Marleyimyia xylocopae); sometimes not-so-much (Nessiteras rhombopteryx).

One technical correction to Jason's post:

"this fly´s HT is a picture"

Not exactly -- the fly's HT is a physical organism, that existed in nature.  The photo is merely evidence of the existence of the HT.


> -----Original Message-----
> From: Taxacom [mailto:taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu] On Behalf
> Of JF Mate
> Sent: Friday, October 09, 2015 12:34 PM
> To: Taxacom
> Subject: Re: [Taxacom] manuscript name question
> Nessie was supposed to be an extreme, humorous example, and what do you
> know it has been done (thanks Mike). I can only hope that this does not gain
> full traction and becomes the preferred method of describing biodiversity,
> because in my opinion, unless it is tightly circumscribed, it will cause more
> instability. So I second Doug´s opinion that Martin should channel his energy
> into writing a recommendation to the ICZN. I will gladly sign it if asked.
> On the other hand, Donat brings up an interesting problem. Let´s accept, for
> now, that this fly´s HT is a picture. Shouldn´t one of these be the HT? In
> addition, since images are manipulated (in the honest sense of the word) for
> publication, we should have the original images deposited in an archive (or
> two) with a DOI or tracking number and digitally stamped to avoid accidental
> changes.
> Dean, I know that there are issues with specimen preservation. Often I find
> myself paralysed with the choices. But at least you have something beyond
> pixels (and infinitely more informative). In any case we will have to wait and
> see what happens.
> Best
> Jason
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