Re: [beemonitoring] Taxonomic Name Changes - Orthography of original spellings
- I fully agree with what was said by Doug, Jim and John. They made their point eloquently so I have little to add:
Matching the gender ending of adjectives to nouns is familiar to speakers of most languages in the world (e.g., Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, etc., etc.), except anglophones. It is a really dumb idea to reverse this very natural rule after having created millions of species names in that way. The confusion would be babylonical.
MatthiasOn Wed, Jun 8, 2011 at 11:46 AM, John S. Ascher <ascher@...> wrote:I fail to see how "returning" thousands of spellings of species names to
"Lafontaine and Schmidt (2010) returned all spellings of species names to
their original spelling….some 4,000 species-level taxa."
original spellings that may not have been used for many decades or more
can be considered a helpful contribution towards stability. Even if this
innovation has merits in the very long run, for the foreseeable future
many of the most influential taxonomists would resist such a change, even
in the unlikely event that it were approved by the ICZN. I believe that
adoption of such a controversial innovation would inevitably result in
dual competing systems, hardly a desirable outcome. A gratuitous
abandonment of gender agreement by the ICZN would surely prompt many of
particularly active and influential taxonomists to disregard the
innovation, resulting in far more serious instability than exists at
While I can see some (not much) long term merit to the proposal to
"return" spellings of specific epithets to the original spelling without
regard to the gender of the genus, such a practice would be vulgar, and
adopting it in advance of ICZN approval is clearly destabilizing and
I trust that this superficially attractive innovation, very appealing to
those who are inclined to distrust taxonomists and to regard us as
outmoded, will soon be recognized as ill-conceived, as was the Phylocode.
Although many people claim that matching of gender has no utility, I find
it very useful, for example when dealing with abbreviated taxon names or
when reviewing a "species" field in isolation of a "genus" field. For
example, a species named "A. parva" could be an Andrena but not an
Anthidium as that would be "A. parvum." Gender agreement of an epithet is
information inherent to the "species" field in databases that reinforces
explicit information about generic combination in "genus" and "full name"
Regarding databases, the solution to the challenge of associating the mere
three different potential spellings is to support collaborative work on
this problem by computer scientists and taxonomists. Modern computer
hardware, including phone apps, are surely powerful enough to link all
three potential combinations, whether in wide use of not, if provided
appropriate data by taxonomists as interpreted by appropriate software.
With only three usual options (male, female, neuter) to link I fail to see
how anyone could regard this as a serious information science challenge in
2011! A more worthy challenge is to address problems caused by homonymy.
The solution to the problem of changing spellings due to gender agreement
is to support compilation of comprehensive digitized catalogs of all
available names (not just valid names) after which the appropriate gender
for all combinations can be reviewed, taking full advantage of incredible
and readily available computer error-checking tools, by the few scholars
who have competence and interest in such matters. The trivial computer
science problems addressed by computer scientists working together with
classical scholars and taxonomists (unfortunately, we cannot take for
granted that the importance of a true collaboration among equal partners
would be recognized).
Whenever people are unhappy with taxonomy or taxonomists why do they
always wish to disrespect and condemn us and our methods, without even
making due efforts to understand these, rather than providing us with the
funding and other resources required to address the problem globally using
the best available (not the cheapest) expertise and technology for the
benefit of all?
With respect to bee names, those of us who led the compilation of the
World Bee Checklist and its as yet still pending updates, including Dave
Nicolson of ITIS, took great pains to establish correct gender agreement
as I also did when originally compiling the Discover Life Bee Species
Guide and World Checklist. We routinely queried relevant experts and had
extensive discussions about difficult cases some of which remain
controversial and therefore unresolved (e.g., Coelioxys, Melissodes). If
we did not succeed in citing names correctly according to ICZN
recommendations in all cases that was due to insufficient access to
expertise, a problem that could be remedied if taxonomic nomenclature was
a more respected and better supported branch of science.
Regarding the inherent instability of taxonomic names, I encourage
everyone to read "Taxonomic Stability is Ignorance": by E. Dominguez and
Quentin D. Wheeler in Cladistics 13, 367–372 (1997).
The title should speak for itself.
> Hi All:
> I am posting this for Dave Wagner... a bit late, I am afraid ... in his
> response to the Epeoloides issue that arose a while back,,,,but of
> interest none the less.
> Hi all,
> There is a push for taxonomists to stop requiring agreement between
> generic and specific names and use instead the original orthography
> (spelling). The problem with requiring agreement in gender, number, case,
> etc. is that such efforts are inherently unstable (in perpetuity) and thus
> contradict one of the three core missions of biological nomenclature: to
> provide a system of names that are unique, universal, and stable. Every
> name change (taxonomic change) could result in/require a new spelling. And
> if all authors don?t recognize the same genera then two spellings of the
> species names could both be correct at the same time. Another pragmatic
> issue is that few people are being trained in Latin these days?every time
> I name a species I need to track down a Latin scholar.
> The movement to return to original orthography (for the spelling of the
> species name, regardless of its generic assignment) is gaining momentum,
> with the primary reason being stability of names for information
> retrieval, databasing, etc. A recent example: Lafontaine and Schmidt
> (2010) returned all spellings of species names to their original
> spelling?.some 4,000 species-level taxa.
> Lafontaine, J. D. and C. Schmidt. 2010. Annotated check list of the
> Noctuoidea (Insecta, Lepidoptera) of North America north of Mexico.
> ZooKeys 40: 1-239.
> David L. Wagner, Professor
> Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
> University of Connecticut
> Storrs, CT 06269-3043
> v.860-486-2139; f. 860-486-6364
John S. Ascher, Ph.D.
Bee Database Project Manager
Division of Invertebrate Zoology
American Museum of Natural History
Central Park West @ 79th St.
New York, NY 10024-5192
work phone: 212-496-3447
mobile phone: 917-407-0378
Dr. Matthias Buck
Royal Alberta Museum
Canada, T5N 0M6
Phone: (780) 453-9122