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

Daniel Leo Gustafsson kotatsu.no.leo at gmail.com
Tue May 10 22:56:45 CDT 2016


It is conflating two issues only to an extent. From my viewpoint, arriving
at this collection about 50 years after the name was published, the fact
that at some point a holotype ostensibly existed but is now lost is for all
practical purposes indistinguishable from the case where the photographed
specimen that would (ideally) have become the holotype and been deposited
in a museum is released in the wild (and is presumably lost). I still have
no way to get more data than what was in the original publication,
regardless of what the code actually says. The quality of the photo is
largely beside the point; the relevant part is that I have no way to
evaluate, in the light of 50 years of more data and more species in the
genus being described, whether the original author was justified in
establishing a new species name for his specimen, or if later authors who
suggested that this species was already named were correct.

Certainly nomina dubia arise from very many different sources, however I
would generally think it prudent to try to limit these sources when
possible. Whether there will be an upsurge or not is also largely
irrelevant, as the cases that do arise will accumulate at some rate,
regardless of how small that rate is. Like in the case with chewing lice,
it creates a lot of unnecessary work for later taxonomists -- whether
professional or amateur -- for no compensating gain.

Cheers,
Daniel

On Tue, May 10, 2016 at 9:33 PM, Stephen Thorpe <stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz>
wrote:

> Hi Daniel,
> I am a little bit alarmed by your post, as it seems to conflate together
> distinct issues! You example is of a very different kind to that under
> discussion here. It is an example of someone who apparently designated a
> type specimen in the usual way, but that specimen cannot now be located.
> The fact that they included a photo with the description actually helps
> you! Imagine what it would be like *without* the photo! Really, your post
> is about unidentifiable nominal species (nomina dubia). OK, I take your
> point that the photo was also insufficient to identify the species in this
> case, but as I keep saying, description by photo alone must be attempted
> with discretion. It works in some cases and not in others. If we ban it
> altogether, we miss out on an opportunity. If we allow it, we risk usage of
> the method in inappropriate cases. Given that nomina dubia arise for all
> sorts of other reasons anyway, is it realistic to worry that there is going
> to be a massive upsurge in these cases if we allow description by photo
> only? This is an issue worthy of debate. What isn't good is pushing for a
> blanket ban, using misrepresentations of the Code, and/or belittling the
> contributions of amateurs.
> Cheers,
> Stephen
>
> --------------------------------------------
> On Wed, 11/5/16, Daniel Leo Gustafsson <kotatsu.no.leo at gmail.com> wrote:
>
>  Subject: Re: [Taxacom] I'm furious over article: On typeless species and
> the perils of fast taxonomy
>  To: "JF Mate" <aphodiinaemate at gmail.com>
>  Cc: "Taxacom" <taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu>
>  Received: Wednesday, 11 May, 2016, 3:15 PM
>
>  In chewing lice there are
>  several examples of species being described
>  extremely poorly but with a photo of the
>  holotype. In some cases, the
>  author of these
>  species, when it was suggested that his species were
>  actually synonyms of already known species, but
>  perhaps aberrant
>  (teratological) specimens,
>  seems to have simply thrown away the specimen
>  but kept the slide with the ID number and
>  everything on it. I spent way too
>  much time
>  trying to find what was supposed to be the holotype on the
>  slide
>  that was referred to in the original
>  manuscript, and which had the name of
>  this
>  purported species written on it (the only one in his
>  collection),
>  before giving up and coming to
>  the conclusion that he probably just
>  destroyed the specimen and transferred all the
>  data to a new slide. He may
>  or may not have
>  done that with species he described with illustrations as
>  well, but his collection is largely a mess, and
>  parts of it has been
>  distributed to other
>  collections without any known paper trail.
>
>  From the downstream position
>  of having to deal with species that are
>  essentially known only from photos, I cannot
>  see any positive benefit from
>  a taxonomical
>  point of view to allow new species to be described without
>  at
>  least one specimen.
>
>  Cheers,
>  Daniel
>
>  On Tue, May 10, 2016 at 8:36
>  PM, JF Mate <aphodiinaemate at gmail.com>
>  wrote:
>
>  > Although I
>  agree with some of Morphy et al´s  sentiments regarding
>  > potential issues of typeless nomenclature,
>  as an amateur entomologist
>  > I don´t
>  feel particularly threatened by their suggestions (naive
>  as
>  > they may be). And if, as Doug has
>  mentioned, the authors have been
>  >
>  contacted and the ICZN or members therein intend to submit a
>  comment
>  > to the journal, then the
>  discourse can only help to clarify the issue
>  > and interpretation of the code to a wider
>  audience. I can´t see this
>  > as anything
>  but good banter. Am I missing something?
>  >
>  > In regards to the
>  topic of typeless descriptions, and since we are
>  > taking sides, if we strip away the
>  emotional side of what people´s
>  > real
>  intentions may or may not be (discourse for psychologists)
>  I
>  > personally find that a picture,
>  albeit a form of evidence, is not
>  >
>  direct evidence (i.e. it is not part of the type but an
>  interpetration
>  > of it, digital in this
>  case). Being indirect it is not just biased but
>  > also crystallized as it limits potential
>  future data-acquisition
>  > methods. So
>  although it may be allowed as a type it is not a very
>  > useful one other than meeting the minimum
>  criterion for publication.
>  >
>  > Best
>  >
>  > On 11 May 2016 at 09:39, Stephen Thorpe
>  <stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz>
>  > wrote:
>  > > Mike,
>  > > Language is difficult to make clear
>  at the best of times. I'm still not
>  >
>  sure what you mean, but I certainly think that the Swiss
>  authors (and
>  > probably also the
>  Brazilians) want to keep amateurs out of taxonomy. Have
>  > you read the article in BZN?
>  [Quote]Publications such as those of Marshall
>  > & Evenhuis (2015) or Minteer et al.
>  (2014) may also stimulate non-experts
>  >
>  to describe new species based on photographed
>  specimens[unquote] While
>  >
>  "amateur" and "non-expert" are not
>  exactly the same thing, I think that the
>  > intended meaning is clear enough. By the
>  way, Broun was never employed as a
>  >
>  taxonomist per se. That he did in his own time. Being
>  "government
>  > entomologist",
>  for a short while, involved other duties. See:
>  > http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/3b52/broun-thomas
>  > > Cheers,
>  > >
>  Stephen
>  > >
>  > >
>  --------------------------------------------
>  >
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