[Taxacom] ICZN - gender of genus-group name ending in -oops

David Redei david.redei at gmail.com
Sun May 22 19:51:30 CDT 2016


OK, I see now. The main question is whether we can find every information
on a particular species by searching for one name. Raising this question
has the basic assumption that gender agreement is something which is
possible to be "sacrificed" in hope of such kind of practical benefit. I am
not sure whether raising this question justified, but OK, let's accept now
tentatively that it is an alternative which could be seriously considered.

I am glad to hear that the situation in Mollusca is so good, most species
are only associated with one name. In Heteroptera ("my" group) it is much
worse. One important reason is the occurrence of inadvertent errors. There
is an Asian species called *Poecilocoris druraei* (Linnaeus, 1771). It has
been cited in the literature quite frequently (but not really frequently):
I am aware of 58 citations of "*Poecilocoris druraei*" after 1950. However,
I have catalogized the following misspellings as well (again, only the
cases after 1950 are shown):

*Poecilocoris drurae* [inadvertent error]: Chandra 1953: 100 (record).

*Poecilocoris drauraei* [inadvertent error]: Chao 1982: 42 (listed,
distribution, host plants).

*Poecilocoris drvraei* [inadvertent error]: F.Y. Chen 1987: 127 (in key).

*Poecilocoris drurai* [inadvertent error]: Zhang & Chen 1988: 287
(listed), Zhang
& Han 1999: 85 (distribution, host plant, economic importance).

*Poecilocoris druaei* [inadvertent error]: Hu 1989: 428 (record, habitat).

*Poecilocoris clruvaei* [inadvertent error]: Z.Y. Chen 1990: 153 (listed).

*Poecilocoris ldruraei* [inadvertent error]: Lei & Zhou 1998: 36 (listed,

*Poecilocoris druraie* [inadvertent error]: Ho 2003: 200 (redescription,
photos, host plants).

*Poecilocoris drurei* [inadvertent error]: Chakraborty 2004: 170 (listed),
173 (in key, diagnosis, record, distribution).

*Poceilocoris* [inadvertent error] *druraei*: Zhang 1994: 32 (distribution,
host plant), Liu & Wang 2009: 593 (listed).

*Poecilocrois* [inadvertent error] *druraei*: Zhou *et al.* 1992: 78
(record, host plants).

*Poecilcoris *[inadvertent error] *ldruraei* [inadvertent error]: Liu & Ju
2006: 326 (listed).

*Poecilocoris druryi* [incorrect subsequent spelling]: Dolling* et al.*
1999: 30, 80 (nomenclature).

That's 15 citations. With other words, 20% of the total mentions of this
species were wrong (and now I ignored the fact that 4 junior synonyms were
also in use after 1950). I want to stress that it is not a unique, isolated
case, making a careful catalogue of any subgroups of Heteroptera will
probably result (only my subjective impression!) in the conclusion that
much more than half of the names occur in more than one form, and only few
of them (none in the example of P. druraei) can be attributed to correct or
incorrect gender agreement. Those species which are frequently cited are in
worse situation of course (more frequent errors) -- but one would expect
that those will be more frequently looked for in a database as well.

Because of the above, at least 20% of the papers pertaining to the above
mentioned biological species will not be found when making an automatized
query which only finds the exact matches. (The situation is not much better
if you ignore those 2 cases when only the generic name was misspelled, and
only search for the epithet.) (Also we need to face misidentifications in
many species, those are records pertaining to a given species but under a
completely different name, but that's a somewhat different story.)

If you make an digital catalogue, misspellings are basically the same as
wrong gender agreement: if you make a query, you won't find the articles in
which the name was misspelled. In catalogues alternative forms caused by
correct or incorrect gender agreement are only one part of the problem; in
nearly all species unpredictable alternative variants occur as well, the
situation is probably better in the literature on European species, but
quite bad on Asian species. The only way to deal with them is to mark these
items and link them with the correct spelling. That is surely a lots of
handwork, but apprently currently there is no other way. My impression is
that modifying the Code, even dropping gender agreement won't improve the
situation significantly.

Last remark: it is beyond question that the universal dropping of gender
agreement and replacing all currently used epithets with the forms
appearing in the original descriptions as advocated by some colleagues (not
you!) would cause a real disaster, because probably the vast majority of
the species would change the name. Therefore I am quite convinced that this
would be the worst possible solution.

With best regards, David


On 23 May 2016 at 04:50, Welter-Schultes, Francisco <fwelter at gwdg.de> wrote:

> David,
> By using the term "successful" I should have added two words to explain
> what I meant.
> Basic question is: Why do we have scientific names for animals?
> It is mainly because it is useful to find information on a species by
> searching just for one single name. In astronomy they did not establish
> such a system, so that stars can have up to 10 names or more, and you need
> to request various times if you like to find something out on a certain
> star.
> Now "successful" is the answer to the question if this goal was achieved
> in the case of a certain species.
> In molluscs the result is generally good. Most European terrestrial
> molluscs are indeed only known by one single name, given that you search
> for information that is less than 50 or so years old. So the system is
> generally successful in that the result - one single request and you can
> find everything about this species - is visible.
> From this point of view it is meaningless if the name for which I have to
> look, is spelled correctly according to the Code rules or not. If the
> butterfly Delias clathrata is only known under this name, we have a
> successful result. So I would not define "successful" as a correct
> application of the Code. Successful in the sense of: All authors and users
> have ever only used one name in one spelling for this one species. (In this
> part of the study we need to discount the effect of species having changed
> their genus-species combination).
> Gender agreement is partly successful in molluscs: yes, partly. We have
> two situations: (1) a name was established, (2) a name was transferred from
> one genus to another genus. In (1) an incorrect ending can have been
> proposed in the original source. In (2) the incorrect application of gender
> agreement can have happened when the species was transferred from one genus
> to another genus with different gender. In European terrestrial molluscs we
> had 250 of the latter cases. In 80 % of those the declination worked
> correctly.
> (There is a gap in the argument, in that some incorrect names are only
> known in their incorrect endings and not in their correct endings - there
> the term "unsuccessful" would not apply. However many taxonomists tend to
> correct when they detect incorrect endings, myself included, and
> continuously produce duplications of names).
> > Does it mean that
> > some authors apply gender agreement rules correctly, and some fail to do
> so?
> Basically yes, however I would not say authors, but rather talk of
> publications, and use the passive. And the past tense. Results of studies
> should always be presented in the past tense. 80 % of the names were
> declined correctly in their corresponding publications.
> I don't like to say authors because I observed that basically all authors
> have been involved in incorrect application of gender agreement, also the
> most skilled, most experienced and most respected authors. Just removing a
> few authors we would not get rid of the problem.
> > the main problem is not that the rules are overly complex, the main
> > problem is that many people publish who should not publish
> Definitely not in molluscs. If you remove the authors who applied gender
> agreement incorrectly in the past 200 years, you would remove the most
> skilled malacologists who really brought very much progress to the
> discipline and without whom European malacology would not be what it is
> today.
> This is something you could have predicted: those most skilled scientists
> in a zoological discipline are premarily zoologists, not experts of Latin
> language.
> Cheers
> Francisco
> ________________________________________
> Von: Taxacom [taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu]" im Auftrag von
> "David Redei [david.redei at gmail.com]
> Gesendet: Sonntag, 22. Mai 2016 03:05
> An: taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
> Betreff: Re: [Taxacom] ICZN - gender of genus-group name ending in -oops
> Francisco,
> your question is, "how successful is gender agreement in zoological
> nomenclature". I cannot fully get your point, how can gender agreement be
> "successful" or "unsuccessful"? Does "successful" mean that all or most
> authors apply gender agreement rules correctly?
> According to your experience, gender agreement is "partly successful,
> partly unsuccessful" (in Mollusca). What does this mean? Does it mean that
> some authors apply gender agreement rules correctly, and some fail to do
> so? If yes, I would say that this would be the result if examining any
> other aspects of zoological nomenclature: type species designation, type
> specimen designation, correct Latinization, correct formation of stems etc.
> Many people apply the rules correctly, many fail to do so, I have seen
> wrong family group names containing a wrongly formed stem, failed or
> missing type species and holotype designations, failed neotype designations
> etc., so one might say that all Articles of the Code are "partly
> successful, partly unsuccessful". But I have the impression that in most
> cases the main problem is not that the rules are overly complex, the main
> problem is that many people publish who should not publish (as I told, poor
> Latin grammar usually correlates with poor descriptions and poor taxonomy).
> You can modify the Code in any way, a significant portion of people simply
> will not read it. I do not think that the best policy is to modify the Code
> in that way that the ignorant authors' acts will also become
> Code-compliant, and claim that this new Code is better than the previous
> one, because it is "more successful".
> I agree with your notion that the cases where many authors fail should be
> examined, and changes in the provisions of the Code regarding gender
> agreement should be considered accordingly; perhaps some Articles could be
> modified in a way which will result in less violations of provisions. The
> problem is, I have never read any concrete proposal for emending,
> modifying, simplifying, extending some particular, concrete articles.
> People troubled by gender agreement usually claim that all the gender
> agreement is "nonsense" (this particular word was used in this conversation
> two days ago) and should be dropped as it is, and all epithet should be
> used with their original ending, with no regard for the actual combination.
> My comments were intended to reply their claims, not yours, your proposal
> is perfectly reasonable for me.
> Best regards,
> David
> On 22 May 2016 at 07:32, Welter-Schultes, Francisco <fwelter at gwdg.de>
> wrote:
> > Being a scientist I tend to prefer arguments being based on scientific
> > studies with falsifiable results.
> > Based the results of such studies I would like to make up my mind on the
> > question whether gender agreement should be maintained in the future, and
> > to which extent.
> > Such studies would have to analyse the experience we actually have. The
> > question is: how successful is gender agreement in zoological
> nomenclature?
> >
> > If something is totally unsuccessful I tend to regard it as an obstacle,
> > rather than as a thing that is useful.
> >
> > My own preliminary results of a few thousand molluscan names would
> > suggest, gender agreement is partly successful, partly not.
> > The next step involves a closer look. Where exactly is gender agreement
> > unsuccessful?
> > Is it possible to deliminate those situations?
> > If yes, then could we eventually add some provisions to the Code, well
> > deliminated provisions that could help to make the situation more
> > successful?
> >
> > What I have often read here is that people (authors, journal editors,
> name
> > users) should improve their skills in Latin grammar. For me this is not a
> > good argument because those people already had enough time to do that,
> and
> > the experience we all complain about is, they have not improved their
> > skills. To me this suggests, they won't do that in the future.
> > So we have to find other solutions.
> >
> > Cheers
> > Francisco
> >
> > Francisco Welter-Schultes
> > Zoologisches Institut
> > Berliner Str. 28, 37073 Goettingen
> > Phone +49 551 395536
> > ________________________________________
> > Von: Taxacom [taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu]" im Auftrag von
> > "Scott Thomson [scott.thomson321 at gmail.com]
> > Gesendet: Samstag, 21. Mai 2016 19:43
> > An: taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
> > Betreff: Re: [Taxacom] ICZN - gender of genus-group name ending in -oops
> >
> _______________________________________________
> Taxacom Mailing List
> Taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
> http://mailman.nhm.ku.edu/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo/taxacom
> The Taxacom Archive back to 1992 may be searched at:
> http://taxacom.markmail.org
> Channeling Intellectual Exuberance for 29 years in 2016.
> _______________________________________________
> Taxacom Mailing List
> Taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
> http://mailman.nhm.ku.edu/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo/taxacom
> The Taxacom Archive back to 1992 may be searched at:
> http://taxacom.markmail.org
> Channeling Intellectual Exuberance for 29 years in 2016.

More information about the Taxacom mailing list