[Taxacom] Some whimsical questions

Richard Pyle deepreef at bishopmuseum.org
Fri Mar 1 12:50:40 CST 2019


This thread touches on an issue that always causes confusion when talking about synonyms of taxonomic names (especially in informatics contexts -- i.e., databases).  Specifically, what counts as a "synonym"?  

A convention used more often in botanical/fungal/algal conversations is to refer to "heterotypic" synonyms vs. "homotypic" synonyms.  In general, the former represent what zoologists sometimes refer to as "subjective" synonyms (i.e., different species-group names, which are synonyms according to taxonomic opinion), and the latter don't really have a label in zoology, but generally (though not exclusively) represent "subsequent combinations" (i.e., same species-group name, different genus name -- which of course is also subjective taxonomic opinion).  However, a subset of homotypic synonyms are what zoologists refer to as "replacement names", wherein a junior homonym is replaced by a new name that shares the same type.  And then there are a few rare cases where two different species-group names happen to share the same type specimen (several examples I'm aware of in fishes). These are included in what zoologists refer to as "objective" synonyms.

Then there's the question of "junior" synonyms vs. "senior" synonyms (a convention that I believe is more common in zoology) to distinguish the "valid" (="accepted") name (senior synonym) from the non-valid/non-accepted "junior" synonym(s).  But do you count the "senior" synonym among the total number of "synonyms"?  Or just the "junior" synonyms?

Then we have other issues where some might think of two names as synonyms, and others might not.  For example, are the names "Aus bus" and "Aus (Xus) bus" synonyms of each other?  What about alternate spellings -- do they count as synonyms?

These examples are in addition to the others already raised (subspecies, available/validly-published, etc.)

It sure would be nice if we could come up with clear and unambiguous terms to categorize the various types of "synonyms", even just within a Code-space (e.g., within zoology) -- but ideally across Codes.  As it stands, the unqualified word "synonym" is almost as ambiguous as the word "name" in this context.  For the love of God, don't get me started on all the different and incompatible things people mean when they refer to "a name" in the context of scientific nomenclature. 

Aloha,
Rich

Richard L. Pyle, PhD
Database Coordinator | Associate Zoologist | Dive Safety Officer
Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum
1525 Bernice Street, Honolulu, HI 96817-2704
Office: (808) 848-4115;  Fax: (808) 847-8252
eMail: deepreef at bishopmuseum.org
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> -----Original Message-----
> From: Taxacom [mailto:taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu] On Behalf Of
> Francisco Welter-Schultes
> Sent: Thursday, February 28, 2019 3:10 PM
> To: taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
> Subject: Re: [Taxacom] Some whimsical questions
> 
> There should be around 500 synonyms for the land gastropod Helix pomatia,
> if I remember well, but I do not have the source for this number off hand. I
> recall from somewhere far back this was the example for the highest number
> of synonyms. One century ago European molluscs suffered what we would call
> taxonomic vandalism today, every slightly different shell was named. David
> reported the same for freshwater molluscs.
> 
> Cheers
> Francisco
> 
> -----
> Francisco Welter-Schultes
> 
> Am 01.03.2019 um 01:42 schrieb John Oswald:
> > The record-holder in the Neuropterida (Insecta: Neuroptera, Megaloptera,
> and Raphidioptera) will surely be the species currently known as Chrysoperla
> carnea, which is the common Old World green lacewing species that can be
> abundant in agricultural fields.
> >
> > My database shows 219 distinct synonyms for this species. Each synonym is
> a "distinct combination", i.e., any unique combination of available and/or
> unavailable genus- and species-group names (genus, subgenus, species,
> subspecies, variety, etc.).
> >
> > The 219 combinations contain a total of 82 unique species-group names, of
> which 69 are available and 13 are unavailable. Of the 69 available species-
> group names, 53 have been used at species rank (without subspecies) in at
> least one combination.
> >
> > So, 53 synonyms in Doug's restricted sense. This also highlights Doug's
> observation that the number of synonyms can increase dramatically when one
> considers subspecies, unavailable names, etc.
> >
> > John
> >
> > ---oo0oo---
> >
> > John D. Oswald
> > Professor of Entomology
> > Curator, Texas A&M University Insect Collection Department of
> > Entomology Texas A&M University College Station, TX  77843-2475
> >
> > E-mail: j-oswald at tamu.edu
> > Phone: 1-979-862-3507
> >
> > Lacewing Digital Library: http://lacewing.tamu.edu/ Bibliography of
> > the Neuropterida: http://lacewing.tamu.edu/Biblio/Main
> > Neuropterida Species of the World:
> > http://lacewing.tamu.edu/SpeciesCatalog/Main
> >
> >
> > -----Original Message-----
> > From: Taxacom <taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu> On Behalf Of
> Robert
> > Zuparko
> > Sent: Thursday, February 28, 2019 4:15 PM
> > To: taxacom <taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu>
> > Subject: [Taxacom] Some whimsical questions
> >
> > Having experienced my share of problems with name changes, I was
> > wondering what were the worse case scenarios (or if you're an
> > optimist, what are the record-holders). Specifically,
> >
> > 1) Which species has undergone the most name changes?
> >
> > 2) Which species has the most junior synonyms?
> >
> > 3) Which species has been variously placed in the greatest number of
> different taxa (either family- or generic-level)?
> >
> > I assume the contenders are likely to have some of the following
> characteristics - described in the 1800's (when communication between
> researchers in different countries was problematic), widespread in the
> Holarctic (where the greatest variety of researchers are likely to have come
> across them), at least somewhat charismatic (increasing the amount of
> attention they might receive), and perhaps of economic importance (again
> increasing the chances of people running into them), which suggests to me
> that at least one of the species is likely to be among the Lepidoptera.
> >
> > Cheers,
> > -Bob Zuparko
> >
> > Robert Zuparko
> > Essig Museum of Entomology
> > 1101 Valley Life Sciences Building, #4780 University of California
> > Berkeley, CA 94720-3112
> > (510) 643-0804
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> > Nurturing nuance while assaulting ambiguity for 32 some years, 1987-2019.
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> > Nurturing nuance while assaulting ambiguity for 32 some years, 1987-2019.
> >
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> Nurturing nuance while assaulting ambiguity for 32 some years, 1987-2019.



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