[Taxacom] manuscript name question

Rosenberg,Gary rosenberg.ansp at drexel.edu
Sat Oct 10 19:49:33 CDT 2015

I agree with Rich Pyle that many interesting points have been raised in the parallel threads of this discussion (but I don’t agree with all sides). The discussion has zeroed in on one point that needs resolution in the fifth edition of the Code: the meaning of “extant” in Article 16.4.2. (“where the holotype or syntypes are extant specimens, by a statement of intent that they will be (or are) deposited in a collection and a statement indicating the name and location of that collection”). The glossary definition of “extant” says: “Of a specimen: still in existence.”

Does the Code mean, “a specimen known still to be in existence at the time the description was published” (which would mean Marleyimyia xylocopae is an available name) or “a specimen known to be in existence at the time the describer realized it was a new species” (which would make Marleyimyia xylocopae unavailable) or something else?

The reductio ad absurdum argument that Stephen offers is useful, and I would modify it slightly. Suppose Marshall & Evenhuis (2015) had said, “We will keep trying to capture the escaped holotype and when we do, we’ll deposit it in the Natal Museum (Pietermaritzburg)…”.  That scenario in itself is implausible (although the paper refers to “an accidentally lost type specimen that might not be collected again due to its rarity”), but what if a description of a new species of primate said, “the holotype was fitted with a transmitter and released into the wild. When it dies, the body will be recovered and deposited in …”.

The point is that whether we agree on the exact meaning of “extant”, it is clearly possible for someone to describe a species under the current Code without depositing the holotype (or syntypes) in a museum. Given that that is the case, the next edition of the Code should clarify that “extant” means “known still to be in existence at the time the description was published”.

Should the Code be modified other than clarifying the meaning of extant? Should we enumerate situations in which it is acceptable to describe a species without deposition of a holotype? Should we require an explicit statement with the original description (after 201X) why a holotype was not deposited? What reasons would be acceptable?

·         Specimen not collected because it could not be caught (perhaps due to limitations of the observation platform, e.g., with deep sea organisms);

·         Fossil not collected because of lack of tools for excavation, or because excavation would have destroyed it;

·         Specimen could not legally be collected (protected, or for lack of permits);

•     Specimen confiscated at customs (for whatever reason);

·         Specimen lost (escaped, misplaced, lost in the mail);

·         Specimen released into the wild because of conservation concerns. In this case, should the Code require at least collection of a tissue sample or a DNA swab?

Should an illustration be required if a holotype is not deposited? (The Code doesn’t require illustration, see Recommendation 16F).

Best wishes,

Gary Rosenberg

Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia

Drexel University

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