[Taxacom] I'm furious over article: On typeless species and the perils of fast taxonomy

Stephen Thorpe stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz
Mon May 9 17:43:05 CDT 2016

Hi Cris,
Judging from the off-list replies, this issue would seem to be a "sensitive" one, with all who replied in full agreement with me, yet not prepared to say so publicly. So far, it seems like only dipterists have taken notice, but the taxonomic issue are, of course, quite general. It is odd that nobody is forcing anyone to describe new species from photos, yet Santos et al. seem to want to impose a ban on anyone doing it! There are certain parallels with homophobia! As for the photo faking argument, I think you may have slightly misunderstood their point? Yes, drawings and verbal descriptions can also be faked, possibly even easier than faking photos, but their point was that a preserved type specimen is there to be checked against descriptions and illustrations, which cannot be done if all that you have are photos. This is true, but in practice a determined faker would have many options regardless. They could deliberately damage or even destroy the holotype, and the availability of the new name would be unaffected, with only the description and illustrations left to use for ID. They could refuse access to the holotype if they also had control of the type repository, or they could simply stay quiet and hope that nobody bothered to check. So, while the lack of a checkable specimen is one reason against description from photo only, it needs to be weighed against reasons for. Also, a specimen and even species is only as good as the associated data, and collecting data is very easy to fake, with little or no way to confirm. So the possibility of faking photos doesn't really introduce anything new.

On Mon, 9/5/16, Cristian Ruiz Altaba <cruizaltaba at dgcc.caib.es> wrote:

 Subject: Re: [Taxacom] I'm furious over article: On typeless species and the perils of fast taxonomy
 To: "Stephen Thorpe" <stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz>
 Cc: taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
 Received: Monday, 9 May, 2016, 6:46 PM
 Hi Stephen,The paper is indeed
 dangerous. I have read it and feel just the way you do.
 Indeed, the main issue is that the authors believe they know
 very well the Code... when in fact they obviously don't.
 Santos et al. want to make a point in support of
 "old-but-not-outdated taxonomy". However, they
 also want to dress this quarrel with a legal varnish.
 Particularly infuriating is their invocation of
 Fontcuberta's photographic work. He has played a lot
 with the illusion of truth in photography. He even has a
 book portraying himself as a follower of Osama Bin
 Laden, his whole biography with numerous photographs...
 almost all of which turn out to be false. The only real one
 portrays what seems a joke: a bottle of something called
 Mecca-Cola. His point is simple yet worthwhile --it
 doesn't matter what the support might be, what counts is
 the genuine sincerity in the message. This we know as the
 Golde Rule, which holds all of science together. Surely we
 all could point at one paper at least where taxonomic
 characters were drawn or reproduced with mistakes (if
 not intentional fake). Why should we suspect that the
 photographs by Marshall and Evenhuis are a fake, while
 taking all works produced by all Brazilian dipeterologists
 as fault-proof?
 So what is the point in Santos et al? Hard to tell. At
 any rate, they end up advocating for field work. Yet, that
 is exactly how you are most likely to photograph unknown
 I do think that this paper deserves an answer. May I
 propose a joint reply by several members of this list?
 All the
 R. Altaba
 EvoCog, University of the
 Balearic Islands
 <taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu> ha escrit:
 Per a: <neale at bishopmuseum.org>,
 <samarsha at uoguelph.ca>
 De: Stephen Thorpe 
 Enviat per:
 Data: 09/05/2016 12:29AM
 a/c: taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
 Assumpte: [Taxacom] I'm furious over
 article: On typeless species and the perils of fast
 Hi all,
 I'm furious
 over this new article: 
 They say: However, according to Article 16.4 of the ICZN
 (1999), only holotypes of extant taxa should be housed in a
 public scientific collection. Marleyimyia xycolopae is
 obviously an extant species. Accordingly, its type specimen
 should be deposited in a scientific collection ... In short,
 Marshall and Evenhuis published a nomen nudum because their
 discovery is backed only by a photograph and not by a type
 Art. 16.4 actually says: 
 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.
 Extant SPECIMENS, NOT extant SPECIES!!!
 The argument offered against
 the availability of the name Marleyimyia xycolopae is
 clearly based on a gross misinterpretation of the Code, and
 is makes the whole article by Santos et al. utterly
 pointless! I am extremely alarmed that nobody out of 14
 authors, at least two reviewers and an editorial team from a
 supposedly reputable journal could not catch this
 fundamental error before it went to print. Peer review just
 doesn't work, it would seem.
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 in 2016.

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