Message 2001-02-0069: Fwd: Re: Fwd: Re: Codes

Tue, 13 Feb 2001 09:30:15 -0500

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Date: Tue, 13 Feb 2001 09:30:15 -0500
From: Philip Cantino <>
Subject: Fwd: Re: Fwd: Re: Codes

David,  I hope this will be my last message on this subject for a
while.  I can't afford to spend any more time on it this week, and I
suspect we are boring most of the readers with our disagreements

>>In another message, David wrote:
>>>Group names are not defined at all in the old codes, which is why
>>>they can be applied by anyone in any way they see fit, as long as
>>>they contain the type species for the group.
>>Group names are defined in the old codes, at least operationally, in
>>terms of a rank and a type.  For example, Asteraceae is defined as
>>the taxon of family rank that includes the type of Aster.
>Exactly my point...the names aren't actually defined.

Our disagreement here seems to be a matter of semantics.  As Kevin
explained in a recent paper, taxon names in the traditional system
are defined in the same sense that any word is defined; i.e., the
definition specifies how the word (or name) is to be applied (see
Taxon 49: 533-536 [2000]).  The definition of Asteraceae that I cited
is not a phylogenetic definition, but it is a definition.  I
certainly agree with you, though, that such a definition is of little
use if one's goal is to name clades.

>As long as there is no mandatory symbol for distinguishing names
>under the two systems, then I think you are correct for clade names.
>I think we differ more in the naming of species. As I understand
>your arguments, you want all species named under the PhyloCode to be
>distinguishable and different from all species named under the old
>system, even though they may look similar for awhile (Quercus-alba,
>for instance).

My concern about distinguishability is largely satisfied by the
optional use of a distinguishing symbol.  Although optional, I hope
that in the botanical community at least, the convention of using
some sort of a symbol to designate PhyloCode names (for both clades
and species) will become essentially universal.  It has been my
impression that botanists are more concerned about this issue than
zoologists.  One nice thing about a distinguishing symbol not being
mandatory is that it provides the latitude for taxonomists in
different disciplines to establish their own conventions.

My major objection to method M does not concern distinguishability,
but uniqueness.  The name "alba" is not unique.  It only becomes
unique when combined with the taxonomic address corresponding to the
genus name under the traditional system (e.g., "Quercus alba" is
unique), and the use of a particular taxonomic address--or any
address at all--is not mandatory.  The complementation of the
non-unique name with a unique registration number reduces, but (in my
opinion) does not eliminate, the potential ambiguity caused by the
nonuniqueness of the name.  This issue is discussed at length in the
Cantino et al. paper (of which David was was a coauthor), so I will
not go into it any further here.  I readily concede that Method B has
some disadvantages too (also discussed in the Cantino et al. paper);
I just consider its disadvantages to be less serious than those of
Method M, and David has the opposite view.

>>>I do not know what the eventual convention that adopts the PhyloCode
>>>will choose to do. I do know that if the convention were to adopt a
>>>set of rules that forced me to make separate descriptions for taxa
>>>under the old and new codes (thus creating parallel and competing
>>>taxonomies), I would no longer have any interest in participating.
>>Here and elsewhere, you refer to separate descriptions.  I don't
>>think anyone is suggesting that there be separate descriptions for
>>taxa under the two systems.  Providing a description is a different
>>process than defining the name.  I would hope that a description
>>would be provided under either system when a name is published, and
>>there is no reason why it shouldn't be exactly the same description.
>If you describe a new species as Quercus-hillisi, that name will not
>be valid under the old codes. Therefore, you will have to name both
>Quercus-hillisi and Quercus hillisi under Method B and the ICBN,
>whereas you would have to name just Quercus hillisi  under Method M
>and the ICBN (the clade address may be optional under Method M, but
>it doesn't make the name wrong). At least for the ICZN, if you tried
>this approach with an animal, the whole species description would be
>invalid under the ICZN code, because authors of species descriptions
>must consistently use binomial nomenclature in the paper for the
>name to be considered valid.

Could you tell me where in the ICZN it says that one must
consistently use binomial nomenclature throughout the paper in which
a new name is published?  I don't think there is any such rule in the
ICBN, but I am much less familiar with the ICZN.

>This is possible under Method M, but impossible under Method B (or
>indeed, Methods A-L). Once the species is described, of course,
>people could refer to it as they see fit. Personally, I'd keep using
>Quercus hillisi unless there was a compelling reason to do otherwise.

I still argue that this is NOT possible with Method M because the
true name of the species under the PhyloCode is a uninomial.  If you
describe a new species, Hypotheticus novus, its name under the
PhyloCode (Method M) is novus, not Hypotheticus novus.  I would say
that the only method in the Cantino et al. paper that permits one to
simultaneously publish a name under both systems in exactly the same
form is Method A.

>Although I have described more vertebrate taxa than non-vertebrate
>taxa, I don't consider myself restricted to vertebrate zoology. Here
>at Texas, most of the other systematists I work with and see
>everyday are botanists, as are at least half of the students in my
>systematics class and systematics discussion group. I have not seen
>one of them promote the naming of a paraphyletic group since at
>least the 1980s. So, there may well be a bias in the company we
>interact with, but it is not a simple difference in taxonomic groups
>studied. I simply don't know ANY systematists who promote
>paraphyletic groups anymore. I believe you that there are still some
>out there someplace, but I haven't met one in decades. I hear that
>there are also systematists who are creationists, but I haven't met
>any of them recently either, and I don't worry too much about what
>they think of incorporating evolution into systematics.

I can assure you that there are still plenty of plant taxonomists
(including the Editor-in-Chief of Taxon!) who still argue in favor of
paraphyletic groups.  And the issue isn't whether we "worry about
what they think."  My point in bringing the paraphyly issue up to
start with is that these folks will not adopt the PhyloCode--hence
there will be two systems operating in parallel whether we wish it so
or not.

>>>Under Phil's preferred system, a description under the new rules
>>>would not fit the old rules, so one would either have to only
>>>describe  species under one set of rules, or publish two
>>>descriptions for the same species (one under each set of rules).
>>Nonsense!  All one would have to do is provide a single description
>>(mandatory under the current codes; optional under the PhyloCode),
>>presumably define the name phylogenetically (if required under the
>>PhyloCode--this issue has not been resolved), provide the PhyloCode
>>registration number, and cite the name in the two slightly different
>>forms required by the two codes.  For example:
>>Hypotheticus novus (ICBN)
>>Hypotheticus-novus (PhyloCode)
>>Phylogenetic definition:........
>>Type specimen:....... [this presumably will be cited as part of the
>>definition anyway]
>>Registration Number:....
>>How would this be done under David's Method M?  Almost identically:
>>Hypotheticus novus (ICBN)
>>novus (PhyloCode)
>>Phylogenetic definition:........
>>Type specimen:.......
>Registration Number:.....
>That is not true...under Method M, the single form of the name
>Hypotheticus novus is perfectly acceptable under both codes, and
>every time you mention the name of the new species in the paper you
>could say Hypotheticus novus (or H. novus if you wanted to

Since the actual name under the PhyloCode is novus, wouldn't you have
to say so at least once in the paper?  From the perspective of the
PhyloCode, it seems misleading to say that the name is Hypotheticus
novus, when in fact its name is novus.

>Thus, the description would satisfy both codes without making a mess
>of the paper or violating any rules about consistent use of binomial
>nomenclature. Under Method B, you would either choose one or the
>other form (and you'd have to choose the binomial form if you wanted
>the description to satisfy the ICZN), or else say "Hypotheticus
>novus (ICBN) or Hypotheticus-novus (PhyloCode)" every time that you
>mentioned the species. I don't see this as adding anything except
>confusion, and I can't imagine trying to educate an editor on why
>all that extra verbiage was needed.

I don't think this is a problem under the ICBN (that is, I would be
able to stick with Hypotheticus-novus after the initial citation of
both names, because only the citation of the names that accompanied
the initial description would have any nomenclatural status under the
ICBN).  If I were operating under the ICZN, I would stick with
Hypotheticus novus after initially citing both names.  I would not
repeatedly cite both, as in your example.

>A minor point: It seems strange to me that you say that a species
>description is optional under PhyloCode, since presumably the rules
>have not been written for species.

I agree.  My error.  A description might well be required under the
PhyloCode for species names.  I was thinking of clade names, where a
definition is required but a descrption is optional.

>>David will argue that in Method M, the combination of the PhyloCode
>>name and a taxonomic address looks identical to the Linnaean binomial
>>for that species.  This is true, but there is no requirement that a
>>taxonomic address be cited or, if one is cited, that it be the genus
>>name of the Linnaean binomial.  If Quercus alba is converted to alba
>>under Method M, the name is alba.  Period.  Sensible people will
>>frequently include the taxonomic address Quercus before the name, but
>>there is nothing to stop people from referring to this species solely
>>by its name (alba) or from including some other taxonomic address
>>such as Fagaceae--another clade to which this species belongs.  It is
>>therefore misleading to argue that under Method M, the name is the
>>same under both codes.
>The point is that under Method M, one can describe the species as
>Quercus alba and be perfectly within both codes, and this is not
>true with any of the other methods.

I have already explained my view on this.  I think it will be misleading to
state in the protologue that a converted species name is Quercus
alba, when in fact its correct name under the PhyloCode is alba.


Philip D. Cantino
Professor and Chair
Department of Environmental and Plant Biology
Ohio University
Athens, OH 45701-2979

Phone: (740) 593-1128; 593-1126
Fax: (740) 593-1130


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