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

JF Mate aphodiinaemate at gmail.com
Thu May 12 18:05:47 CDT 2016


I was going to leave this thread die but I will jump in briefly.

Rich, I understand what you are getting at but even if I accepted your
hypothesis that specimens have a finite life of decades or centuries,
so what? In a few decades we might all have a Mr CT-Scan and a Mr DNA
and we might be digitizing our types down to the molecular level. We
can´t do that to a picture. I just can´t understand how the type
specimen (which often times is the only specimen of a species) is not
valuable.

Stephen, what are you talking about now. Field identification is
common but it does not apply to pictures in the way you want us to
think. Bird-watchers examine the bird through their binoculars, listen
to their song and observe their behaviour/movements before identifying
the animal. It is identifiable in the field but it is not a picture.
Ditto with plants. Your example only applies to countries with poor
biodiversity and on small groups of large taxa. Talk about framing
your point in the best possible angle.

This kerfuffle is because of the bigger picture.

Jason

On 13 May 2016 at 07:12, Stephen Thorpe <stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz> wrote:
> 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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