[Taxacom] manuscript name question

Richard Pyle deepreef at bishopmuseum.org
Sat Oct 10 18:57:17 CDT 2015

Yes, it "might" have still been alive when the article was published.  And
it "might" have been collected by someone else. And it "might" have been
entombed in amber. And it "might" have been blown to the north pole and
frozen in ice. And it "might" have been acquired by an extraterrestrial
intelligent life-form visiting our solar system.  But all of these things
are sufficiently implausible that a presumption of "non-extant" can be
(very) safely assumed.  Now, I'm not a fly expert, and I have no idea what
the world record is for longest-living fly is; but a quick Google search
suggests something in the range of 25-90 days.  The beast designated as the
holotype was photographed (already as an adult) on 1 December 2014, at an
elevation of only 74m in the middle of the southern summer in South Africa
(average summer temperatures 87 - 90°F; meaning shorter lifespan of flies).
The article was published  5 October of this year. While the possibility
that the individual designated as the holotype lived for an additional 308
days after it was photographed (again, already as an adult) might be greater
than, say, the extraterrestrial abduction scenario; I think it's
nevertheless safe to assume that the beast lived out a full fly-life and
finally succumb to natural fly-death causes long before the paper found its
way onto the web in published form.

Again, while there may be an "unlucky and unlikely sequence of events" that
could perhaps cause some confusion about the availability of the name
(depending on how you want to interpret the phrase "still in existence" in
the Code glossary); is this really an effective use of our intellectual
capacity as taxonomists to argue about?

Rather than sniff through the Code for highly improbably "gotchas" to render
names unavailable on technicalities, shouldn't we instead be focused on how
to craft the next edition of the Code to eliminate the more substantive
issues we have to deal with on a regular basis? To be sure, the question of
whether a physical type specimen should be required is certainly a
legitimate point of discussion to have when crafting the next edition of the
Code, and I think that is certainly worthy of further discussion.
Reasonable minds will disagree, and that's fine. 


> -----Original Message-----
> From: Stephen Thorpe [mailto:stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz]
> Sent: Saturday, October 10, 2015 12:51 PM
> To: gread at actrix.gen.nz; Taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu;
> deepreef at bishopmuseum.org
> Cc: neale at bishopmuseum.org
> Subject: RE: [Taxacom] manuscript name question
> Hang on a minute Rich. Please re-read what you wrote! If you are going to
> count "still alive" as an option for "extant specimen", then Steve &
Neal's fly
> might well have been still alive when they published the description, in
> case the name would be unavailable due to the lack of a statement of
> holotype deposition for what you've just said is an "extant specimen"! Of
> course, it might be impossible to prove/disprove that it was still alive
at that
> time, but all I'm saying is that there could be an unlucky and unlikely
> sequence of events which could invalidate the name (e.g. someone captured
> it after photography and kept it alive in a jar at home, photographing it
> day with a time stamp!). It is a risk, albeit a negligibly small one. I'm
> arguing against what Steve and Neal did, I'm just trying to figure out
> any weak points are, and how weak they are. What I have described is the
> only weak point, as far as I can see, so I don't think it  likely that the
> description will prove to be problematic at all. So, it is all good.
> Stephen

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