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

Stephen Thorpe stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz
Fri May 13 16:49:53 CDT 2016

The only problem with your suggestion is one of practical application. Firstly, it may be difficult/impossible to know for sure if some evidence has been fabricated; and (2) we don't want to provide another opportunity for unscrupulous taxonomists to ignore the taxonomy of their rivals, by way of claiming fabrication when there is none. 

On Fri, 13/5/16, Cristian Ruiz Altaba <cruizaltaba at dgcc.caib.es> wrote:

 Subject: Re: [Taxacom] I'm furious over article: On typeless species and the perils of fast taxonomy
 To: deepreef at bishopmuseum.org
 Cc: "'JF Mate'" <aphodiinaemate at gmail.com>, deepreef at bishopmuseum.org, "'Stephen Thorpe'" <stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz>, "'Taxacom'" <taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu>
 Received: Friday, 13 May, 2016, 8:55 PM
 May I propose a solution.
  The bottomline is whether the type
 is available for further study. That is, whether
 we retain a part of the specimen itself, or just a
 representation of it. 
  A bird skin versus a photograph in the
 wild would be a simple dichotomy. In reality, the boundary
 is fuzzy. How realistic is a SEM image of a type specimen?
 Surely it depends on preparation, angle, etc. --especially
 if the actual specimen came out half-fried. A specimen that
 was overcleaned and subject to fancy coiffure in order to
 get an enhanced picture, how much of its original character
 does it retain? Does a tissue sample remain hard evidence
 once homogenized, or even as only a DNA extract, or just a
 band in an agarose gel that gets photographed? 
  The Code accepts a footprint as type
 material, I guess. Ichnotaxa are explicitly included. But
 there is no limit to the age of that trace fossil. It may be
 a Cambrian  ichnofossil, or a dried-muck footprint. How
 different is this (ontologically I mean) from the imprint
 left on a silver plate, a plastic film or a light sensor?
 It's a matter of tradition only. We accept older
 concepts, but are reluctant to expand the range of
 "imprint taxa". Fine. Thus we speak of the actual
 specimen as the type, not its image. 
  In doing so, however, we implicitly asume
 that we trust the representation. And this unavoidably
 includes all photographs, drawings, scans and whatever. This
 implies that the quarrel by Santos et al against
 photographic evidence is simply both unsubstantiated and
  In essence, when we accept a fossil or a
 photograph we are just saying that we apply the Golden Rule
 that bounds science together. When you say you have found a
 new ape species, I will accept all of your evidence. We
 might argue about its interpretation, or even about methods,
 but I am not casting any doubts upon your scholarship in
 showing your data. The issue then is how to deal with cases
 blatantly breaching such trust. 
  Article 1.3.1 explicitly excludes
 hypothetical concepts. It can be interpreted as forbidding
 data manipulation. Such as photoshop playgrounds, so any
 image that is not accurate and unmanipulated (i.e., only
 retouched within bona fide limits) should be outside the
 Code's scope. I think that is clear now, but obvioulsy a
 fair number of (dipterist) colleagues fail to understand.
 Thus, maybe a clarification or recommendation in this
 sense would be useful as an addition to this article.
  My proposal:
 .3. Exclusions.
 Excluded from the provisions of the Code are names
 1.3.1. for
 hypothetical concepts. 
 This includes fabricated evidence stemming from inaccurate
 or excessive manipulation of actual specimens or any kind of
 representation of them. 
  All the best,
 R. Altaba
 EvoCog, University of the
 Balearic Islands
 <taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu> ha escrit:
 Per a: "'Stephen Thorpe'"
 <stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz>, "'JF
 Mate'" <aphodiinaemate at gmail.com>,
 <taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu>,
 <deepreef at bishopmuseum.org>
 De: "Richard Pyle" 
 Enviat per:
 Data: 13/05/2016 06:49AM
 Assumpte: Re: [Taxacom] I'm furious over
 article: On typeless species and the perils of fast
 Hi Stephen,
 > AArrrgghh
 ... now you are confusing me, Rich!
 If I am, then I apologize.
 > In the case of
 Marleyimyia xylocopae, a photo was used as a proxy for the
 > specimen, not in any "technical sense", or
 Code defined sense, but in everyday
 > parlance. People may be misunderstanding the situation
 and thinking either
 > that:
 > (1)
 the photo is the type (but it isn't according to Art.
 73.1.4); or, more likely
 > that
 > (2)
 there is no type. But there is a type specimen, it just
 isn't preserved, and we
 > only know it via the photo). This is currently not
 disallowed by the Code.
 Exactly.  Thanks for helping to clarify
 this point, which seems to have been lost on some.
 > Anyway, as you said the real issue is
 whether there ought to be a requirement
 > in the Code for types to be preserved in some way. This
 would disallow future
 > cases like Marleyimyia xylocopae. My opinion is no,
 there should not be such a
 > requirement. My reasons are that the requirement can be
 met by
 > diagnostically useless types and would prevent cases
 like Marleyimyia
 > xylocopae, which are arguably cases of good worthwhile
 taxonomy. Of course
 > we want to avoid diagnostically useless photos, but no
 more so than we want to
 > avoid diagnostically useless preserved specimens. I
 can't see any way in which
 > the Code could place requirements on how diagnostic a
 specimen must be in
 > order to count as a type, so we just have to promote
 good taxonomy, regardless
 > of method, and hope that nobody would be silly enough
 to describe from photo
 > only if they did have a good diagnostic specimen at
 hand to be the type.
 Thanks!  This is exactly the sort of
 commentary I was hoping to see on this topic, and which I
 believe will be helpful to the Commission in guiding their
 decisions on this issue.
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