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

Stephen Thorpe stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz
Thu May 12 16:12:43 CDT 2016


Hi Daniel,

You said to me: "you seem to be imagining some sort of excellent best-case dream scenario..."

My reply: Not at all! I am only imagining the sort of situation wherein a species is distinctive enough to be recognisable in the field (and therefore recognisable by way of good photo). Are you suggesting that no species are recognisable in the field? Tell that to a field botanist!

You also said: "I cannot see how having a specimen in addition to a set of photos could possibly give you less data than just having the photo. How, exactly, is the specimen reducing the amount of information obtainable from the photo(s)?"

My reply: I didn't say that! What I said was "having a specimen might actually give you no more data (and possibly even less data) than a good photo does, as specimens tend to degrade", meaning that a specimen can tell you less than a photo. I didn't say that specimen + photo might tell you less than the photo alone!

You said: "In any case, my original point was that given how much of an unnecessary hassle it can be to work with species where the type is known only from photos and the specimen has subsequently deliberately (or accidentally) been destroyed, I cannot see any virtue in essentially destroying the specimen that could have been deposited as a holotype already before the manuscript has been published"

My reply: Nobody is advocating the deliberate avaoidance of depositing a type specimen. It is a question of what to do if you *only* have a photo.


Cheers,

Stephen

--------------------------------------------
On Fri, 13/5/16, 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: Friday, 13 May, 2016, 4:20 AM
 
 Hi,,
 
 Conversely, you seem to be imagining some
 sort of excellent best-case dream scenario, in which all
 possible characters are adequately catalogued and
 illustrated by the original photos, including characters
 that have not yet been recognised as useful for the taxon in
 question, and basing your argument on that. I find that to
 be as unhelpful an approach as assuming the opposite.
 
 Other than that, I agree with
 Jason that photos plus specimens is potentially a greater
 source of information than just photos. and I cannot see how
 having a specimen in addition to a set of photos could
 possibly give you less data than just having the photo. How,
 exactly, is the specimen reducing the amount of information
 obtainable from the photo(s)?
 
 In any case, my original point was that
 given how much of an unnecessary hassle it can be to work
 with species where the type is known only from photos and
 the specimen has subsequently deliberately (or accidentally)
 been destroyed, I cannot see any virtue in essentially
 destroying the specimen that could have been deposited as a
 holotype already before the manuscript has been published.
 At the very least, it creates unnecessary extra work future
 taxonomists.
 
 Cheers,
 Daniel
 
 On Tue, May 10, 2016 at
 11:17 PM, Stephen Thorpe <stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz>
 wrote:
 Hi again
 Daniel,
 
 I think I have just replied to Jason on some of these
 points, but again: nobody is advocating the deliberate
 reduction of available data. If you only have a photo, and
 little or no prospect of getting additional material, then
 it is a waste of existing data (i.e. the photo) not to use
 it. Also, having a specimen might actually give you no more
 data (and possibly even less data) than a good photo does,
 as specimens tend to degrade. Anyway, there is nothing, to
 my mind anyway, that precludes more data turning up after
 description to help to confirm or refute the original
 hypothesis (i.e. that it is a new species). I think that you
 may be thinking of the worst case scenario, and basing your
 argument on that! By the way, I wasn't accusing *you* of
 "bashing amateurs", or of misrepresenting the
 Code! That comment was directed at the articles in
 Systematic Ent. and BZN.
 
 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, 5:05 PM
 
 
 
  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
 
 



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