[Taxacom] Rio disaster and its aftermath

Doug Yanega dyanega at ucr.edu
Tue Sep 4 13:41:26 CDT 2018

Apologies for cross-posting.

I expect that most, if not all of you, have heard by now of the almost 
total destruction of the Museu Nacional in Rio this Sunday. The 
magnitude of this calamity - personally, for all the researchers who 
worked there, and scientifically, for those who used the collections - 
is beyond easy comprehension. It will take our community years to 
wrestle with all of the consequences, and our hearts go out to our 
colleagues affected by this tragedy.

Very briefly: I have already begun to see discussions and commentaries 
online about the potential difficulties surrounding the thousands, if 
not tens of thousands, of primary types that were lost this weekend. 
Speaking on behalf of the ICZN, I would urge people to refrain from 
speculation on this topic, in particular regarding the potential 
designation of neoytpes to replace lost primary types.

I and other Commissioners are hoping that we can draft a short document 
(and once it has been vetted, distributed widely to the taxonomic 
community within a week or so) to clarify the rules in the present ICZN 
Code that govern neotype designation. In a nutshell - and I must 
emphasize this point - not all lost types *need* to be replaced, and in 
fact the Code *prohibits* the designation of neotypes except under 
certain exceptional circumstances that go beyond the simple absence of a 
primary type. It is therefore quite likely that a significant number of 
the lost types from the Rio collections will never be replaced, and this 
is actually in accordance with the Code.

Rather than go into further detail now, I'll remind anyone who has 
interest in this to please refer to the present version of the Code, 
which differs in many respects from older Code versions, and familiarize 
yourselves with Chapter 16, Article 75 - and which can be read online 
here: http://www.nhm.ac.uk/hosted-sites/iczn/code/

Hopefully within a week we will have a more detailed document ready to 
offer guidance as to when and when not to designate neotypes.


Doug Yanega      Dept. of Entomology       Entomology Research Museum
Univ. of California, Riverside, CA 92521-0314     skype: dyanega
phone: (951) 827-4315 (disclaimer: opinions are mine, not UCR's)
   "There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness
         is the true method" - Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chap. 82

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