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

Stephen Thorpe stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz
Wed May 11 16:49:30 CDT 2016


Rich asked: "Would the people who strongly advocate for Code prevention or minimization of cases where the type is lost or destroyed prior to publication, also advocate for Code rules establishing minimum standards of specimen preservation?  If so, how would such rules be crafted?"

My comments: A lot depends on the taxonomic group. For example, beetle exoskeletons typically last a long time, possibly indefinitely, whereas other organisms are pretty useless already when hauled up out of the deep sea. I got the strong impression once, chatting to a nematologist, that they pretty much accept that the same species are being described as new over and over again, due to some sort of problem preserving types in usable form for very long. But preservation of types is only part of the story. Perhaps more important is whether the types are diagnostic or not. I'm not sure that taxonomists have ever really gotten to grips with how to handle nomina dubia. For example, in a recent excellent revision of the N.Z. fauna of the megadiverse genus Sagola, the authors state that only males can be identified with confidence, requiring dissection. A lot of the old species names are based on unique female holotypes. Oddly though, they unequivocally placed every such nominal species as either a valid species or a junior synonym of another valid species! They based their decisions on fairly tenuous evidence like type locality, even though many species in the genus are widespread, many are undoubtedly much more widespread than we currently know, and there is a high level of sympatry, not to mention the fact that type localities could be a result of original mislabelling in some cases. Also, in a somewhat less excellent revision of a N.Z. carabid group, the authors say odd things like that they examined the type back in 2001, then in the context of publishing a catalogue rather than doing any taxonomic revision! I might be wrong, but I get the impression that they think that it is enough that they have merely seen the type at some stage in the past, but surely they need to carefully examine the type *in the context of the present taxonomic revision*! Anyway, my point is just that types are types, but a lot of taxonomic practice isn't particularly tied to types in quite the ultra-rigorous way that some people seem to think. Types get lost, degraded, mislabelled, etc. There can even be doubts over which specimens are the genuine types. Taxonomy needs to be able to deal with such problems. I still say that a good photo *can be* more useful/informative than a poor type specimen.

Stephen

--------------------------------------------
On Wed, 11/5/16, Richard Pyle <deepreef at bishopmuseum.org> 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>, "'Taxacom'" <taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu>
 Received: Wednesday, 11 May, 2016, 8:34 PM
 
 Just as a point of
 clarification, the word "typeless" is very
 misleading in this thread.  All the names being discussed
 here have types (if they didn't, they wouldn't be
 available names).  Moreover, in none of these cases is an
 image the type (in zoology, images cannot serve as types).
 In all cases, we are talking about Code-compliant species
 names that have a properly designated type, which is an
 organism.
 
 The issue is a
 question of the relative timing between the publication of a
 new name, and the loss or destruction of a name-bearing type
 specimen.  At one extreme, the type specimen is lost or
 destroyed prior to publication of the name.  At the other
 extreme, type specimens are still extant as preserved
 specimens.  The topic of this thread involves the former
 extreme -- when type specimens are lost or destroyed prior
 to the publication of the name.
 
 Ultimately, essentially all type specimens will
 probably be lost or destroyed (no preservation method is
 perfect -- the best we can likely hope for is that the
 preserved specimen remains extant for a few centuries).
 While a lot of people seem extremely passionate about
 preventing cases where the type is lost or destroyed prior
 to publication, there does not seem to be a lot of concern
 expressed for cases where the type is lost or destroyed soon
 after publication. Would the people who strongly advocate
 for Code prevention or minimization of cases where the type
 is lost or destroyed prior to publication, also advocate for
 Code rules establishing minimum standards of specimen
 preservation?  If so, how would such rules be crafted?
 
 Aloha,
 Rich
 
 
 
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