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

Daniel Leo Gustafsson kotatsu.no.leo at gmail.com
Wed May 11 00:05:09 CDT 2016


We seem to be talking past each other, as your post is largely a
reiteration of my post. Even if the photos are the best photos since the
dawn of photography, I still have "no way to get more data than what was in
the original publication, regardless of what the code actually says". If
the holotype is lost -- whether it was released or destroyed in a fire or
deliberately thrown away -- this is still the case, with the caveat that if
a deposited holotype existed somewhere in a collection between the
description and the disappearance, there is a chance that some other
taxonomist may have had a look at it and added information. This is also
still the case if the species was described by text only, or text and
drawings, regardless of the quality of any of these sets of information. I
agree with all of these points; the photo as such is a red herring.

What remains, and what I sought to illustrate with my first example, is
that it is tedious and time-consuming, not to mention impossible, to try to
guess what characters a species possess when it is impossible to study a
specimen, regardless of the reason for this impossibility. Just as limiting
the sources of nomina dubia is a valid way to try to limit the number of
(at least new) nomina dubia, limiting the sources of guesswork is a valid
way to limit the number of species for which we have to guess the
characters because of idiosyncrasies of its author(s) (including their
having released the specimens for whatever reason).

For what it's worth, the same author who presumably threw away the holotype
of the species I referred to previously also described virtually all his
species and genera based solely of host relationships, and the descriptions
typically contain more text about the person he is naming the species after
than any diagnostic characters. He's also an early version of Hoser, and
spent his early career going through older publications and giving names to
any population of chewing lice the original author claimed to be slightly
different, without every having seen specimens. Nevertheless, he was a
professional in the sense of getting paid to do this. I have not yet read
the paper that started this whole conversation, so I am not here to bash
amateurs. I just don't see how "promoting good taxonomy" is consistent with
arbitrarily and irreversibly limiting the amount of data available to
future workers.

Cheers,
Daniel

On Tue, May 10, 2016 at 10:18 PM, Stephen Thorpe <stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz
> wrote:

> Hi again Daniel,
>
> OK, your example is ... somewhere between on and off-topic! You say that
> surely we want to limit the number of sources of nomina dubia. Actually, I
> think we only want to limit the number of nomina dubia, regardless of the
> source. The best way to do that is by promoting good taxonomy, whatever
> method is used. We should promote highly diagnostic photos over poorly
> diagnostic photos, etc.
>
> You say: "...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 say: No, not if the photo(s) is a good one (i.e. a diagnostic one). Same
> with an hand drawing or a verbal description. These two are also both
> useless if they are not diagnostic and the holotype is lost! So, maybe
> photos are a red herring in this discussion? What we really should be
> discussing is whether new species can be described, by whatever method(s),
> without deposition of a holotype specimen. It is easy to jump quickly to a
> negative answer, but wait! It is quite possible for a holotype specimen to
> be not diagnostic, and it could be damaged, lost or destroyed at any stage
> after publication. Then we are in the same predicament. In some cases, a
> diagnostic photo would be much better than a non-diagnostic holotype
> specimen. So, why put a blanket ban on photos as proxies for specimens??
>
> As I said, this issue is well deserving of discussion and debate, but not
> by way of Code misrepresentations or by using the issue as an opportunity
> for, as Mike put it, "bashing 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: "Stephen Thorpe" <stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz>
>  Cc: "JF Mate" <aphodiinaemate at gmail.com>, "Taxacom" <
> taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu>
>  Received: Wednesday, 11 May, 2016, 3:56 PM
>
>  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
>



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