[Taxacom] Taxacom Digest, Vol 183, Issue 4

Les Watling watling at hawaii.edu
Sun Jul 11 13:14:32 CDT 2021

Hi Mario,
You bring up an interesting issue. I can give you my perspective. I worked
for a long time with crustaceans and now with deep sea octocorals. In both
cases I erected a number of genera for a single new species.

Under the circumstance of creating a new genus for a new species, I look at
the whole family and assess what are the characters normally used to
circumscribe the genera that already exist. Sometimes this results in my
revising of some of those genera because of inconsistent application of
characters. In any case, I try to define the genus with characters that I
think can cover several as yet unknown species that might be discovered,
and I diagnose my new species very specifically so as to leave space in the
genus for these yet to be discovered species.

As you, I really hate it when I see a species diagnosis written "as for
genus." That implies all new species need to be in some other genus, maybe
one species per genus forever.... kind of ridiculous.


Les Watling
Professor, School of Life Sciences
216 Edmondson Hall
University of Hawaii at Manoa
Honolulu, HI 96822
Ph. 808-956-8621
Cell: 808-772-9563
e-mail: watling at hawaii.edu

On Sun, Jul 11, 2021 at 1:03 PM <taxacom-request at mailman.nhm.ku.edu> wrote:

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> Today's Topics:
>    1. Diagnoses for monotypic genera (Mario Schädel)
> ----------------------------------------------------------------------
> Message: 1
> Date: Sun, 11 Jul 2021 18:56:01 +0200
> From: Mario Schädel <mario.schaedel at gmail.com>
> To: taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
> Subject: [Taxacom] Diagnoses for monotypic genera
> Message-ID: <afd7ca55-4da1-0f62-0814-14db067b4a8b at gmail.com>
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> Dear Taxacom readers,
> from time to time, reviewers and editors complain about how my
> colleagues and I handle diagnoses for species which can not be
> identified as belonging to an existing group that is ranked as ‘genus’.
> Based on the underlying logic in my opinion it is best to give a
> diagnosis for the species and then for the monotypic genus either write
> ‘as species’ or ‘not applicable because monotypic’ (I would prefer the
> latter solution).
> Are there publications arguing for this procedure? It would be very
> convenient to point reviewers or editors to such a publication instead
> of writing long-winding explanations why we think the two alternatives
> (below) are a bad idea. To explain myself in a bit more detail: The
> alternatives to my preferred ways are:
> 1. splitting up the diagnosis into a genus and a species part (this gets
> suggested the most).
> The decision whether a character is genus or species level is obviously
> very subjective and arbitrary. Whether such a decision was correct can
> only be known when and if a second species gets discovered. While it is
> arbitrary and subjective, this may sound trivial; however in practice I
> find it to be problematic.
> 2. giving a diagnosis for the genus (exactly as I would formulate it for
> the species) and then for the species writing ‘as for the genus’.
> This may sound even more trivial. ‘as for the species’ – ‘as for the
> genus’ – Where is the difference? The difference is that in practice
> many authors do not critically check what assumptions there are behind
> diagnoses. Even more so if they come from well established colleagues.
> Subsequently, authors simply include a new species into an existing
> genus if the new species matches the description of the genus, instead
> of thinking about synapomorphies between the two species.
> In my opinion, not providing diagnoses for the genus can be very helpful
> in this regard, as it doesn’t lure future authors to a convenient but
> potentially wrong solution. In my field – I work with arthropod fossils
> – there are numerous examples of genus names that turned into garbage
> taxa because of exactly this process. Extinct species are especially
> prone for this and with those the process of untangling such messes is
> even harder, because there is only incomplete morphological data
> available. Yet, I can imagine such things to also be problematic in
> fields where there are only few resources available for reconstructing
> phylogenies using molecular or combined data.
> I would be very happy if someone could point me towards publications
> that deal with this problem, which I then can reference to, when needed.
> Best wishes,
> Mario Schädel
> --
> he/him
> PhD Student
> Zoomorphology
> Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München
> Munich, Germany
> mcranium.github.io
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