[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 18:33:17 CDT 2016


Jason,

My point was that it is sometimes possible to recognise a species either from a photo or from a glimpse in the field. In such a case where you only have a photo and no specimen, but the photo is sufficient to recognise the species, then why not describe it? Your reasoning is a red herring, for it has nothing much to do with type specimens. Of course, we will want specimens to get more data on the species and confirm/refute hypotheses. But it doesn't need to be the *type specimen*. A vast number of species are long ago described from inadequate type specimens, but that doesn't stop us adding data for the species by way of collection of new material. There is a small issue about the fine line between nomina dubia and identification based on tenuous evidence*, but the evidence from a good photo(s) *can be* more than enough to be confident of which species we are dealing with.

Cheers,

Stephen

* An issue which, as I have already mentioned, seems quite unsettled in taxonomy generally.

--------------------------------------------
On Fri, 13/5/16, JF Mate <aphodiinaemate at gmail.com> wrote:

 Subject: Re: [Taxacom] I'm furious over article: On typeless species and the perils of fast taxonomy
 To: "Taxacom" <taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu>
 Received: Friday, 13 May, 2016, 11:05 AM
 
 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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