[Taxacom] ICZN policy on replacing lost type specimens

Stephen Thorpe stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz
Wed Sep 12 22:49:37 CDT 2018

Fully with you on that one Doug, but, alas, I suspect it will fall on at least some deaf ears! The same considerations apply equally to lectotypes and yet we still get a fair few papers coming through like this one: 
Leschen, R.A.B.; Newton, A.F. 2015: Checklist and type designations of New Zealand Aleocharinae (Coleoptera: Staphylinidae). Zootaxa, 4028(3): 301-353. https://doi.org/10.11646/zootaxa.4028.3.1
(Sorry Al, but this was not exactly your finest hour! Lectotypes designated for 55 names prior to taxonomic revision, thus potentially locking in unnecessary synonymy and/or making what might turn out to be poor choices of lectotypes upon closer taxonomic scrutiny! Should be done as the taxa are being revised, not en masse in advance, IMHO!)
Presumably, such papers are good to quickly and easily generate citations down the line?
Cheers, Stephen

On Thu, 13/9/18, Doug Yanega <dyanega at ucr.edu> wrote:

 Subject: [Taxacom] ICZN policy on replacing lost type specimens
 To: "taxacom" <TAXACOM at MAILMAN.NHM.KU.EDU>
 Received: Thursday, 13 September, 2018, 3:06 PM
 Hi, all.
 Among the things that have arisen in
 the aftermath of the terrible fire 
 this month in Brazil's Museu Nacional -
 a tragedy that affects many in 
 the global scientific community - are
 numerous public comments regarding 
 the loss of the thousands of holotype
 specimens housed in Rio, and how 
 difficult it will be to replace them
 all. The latter assertion - 
 implying or claiming that *all *of the
 lost types will need to be 
 replaced - is inaccurate, and those of
 us serving on the ICZN 
 (International Commission on Zoological
 Nomenclature) feel that it is 
 essential to provide accurate
 information to counteract some of these 
 well-intentioned but slightly
 misleading comments. Our aim is not to 
 dismiss the concerns of those who are
 worried about the consequences of 
 losing so many type specimens, but to
 reassure people that only a 
 *fraction* of those lost types actually
 require replacement, in no small 
 part due to the commendable foresight
 of curators and researchers who 
 recorded digital images of many of
 those types.
 Accordingly, I and a number of other
 Commissioners have drafted an 
 advisory document outlining what the
 ICZN Code actually says regarding 
 the replacement of lost types,
 emphasizing that the situation 
 surrounding each individual type must
 be taken into account, and *only 
 in exceptional cases* is it possible to
 designate a replacement 
 (neotype); doing so requires very
 explicit justification and 
 documentation. It is entirely likely
 that only a small fraction of the 
 holotypes that have been lost will
 fulfill the necessary criteria, thus 
 greatly reducing the burden on the
 taxonomic community. The task will 
 not be easy, but it will not be as
 comprehensive or labor-intensive as 
 many have assumed.
 For those of you who have an interest
 in this matter, please see
 There are, inevitably, parts of the
 Code that can be easily overlooked, 
 easily misinterpreted, or fairly
 subjective. The purpose of this 
 particular document is to serve for
 clarification and as a practical 
 guideline. It does not, in any way,
 supercede the "legislative" text of 
 the Code itself, which is appended -
 unaltered - at the end of the 
 document, and also available at 
 in its entirety. We would 
 urge people in particular to note the
 various provisions of Article 
 75.3, especially 75.3.6 and 75.3.7.
 Please do bear in mind that the rules
 concerning neotype designations 
 are explicitly intended to ensure a
 measure of quality control over the 
 process, and prevent abuses of the
 system; every one of these rules is 
 in place for a good reason. Most of
 these rules have been unchanged (or 
 even slightly relaxed) since at least
 the 1961 edition of the Code, if 
 not earlier, and they have served the
 community well thus far.
 If you read through the document and
 still are uncertain about anything, 
 I and the other Commissioners are
 generally available to answer 
 questions. We would certainly prefer to
 spend a little effort to address 
 taxonomists' concerns *before* any
 types are replaced, rather than after.
 PLEASE do pass this message on to
 colleagues who might benefit from this 
 information, including other mailing
 lists or social media groups where 
 this topic is of broad interest. This
 document may eventually be 
 published, but broad dissemination of
 the information *now* will still 
 be beneficial, especially given that
 publications have a much smaller 
 reach than mailing lists and social
 media, and also given how quickly, 
 and widely, inaccurate assumptions and
 claims have already been distributed.
 Sincerely, Doug Yanega
 Doug Yanega      Dept.
 of Entomology       Entomology Research
 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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