Message 2001-12-0001: Why is the PhyloCode so strict? (long)

Thu, 15 Nov 2001 18:52:21 +0100

[Previous by date - Re: ssp var f sp]
[Next by date - Fwd: Why is the PhyloCode so strict? (long)]
[Previous by subject - Why does the PhyloCode use a hierarchy?]
[Next by subject - Why is the PhyloCode so strict? (short)]

Date: Thu, 15 Nov 2001 18:52:21 +0100
From: David Marjanovic <>
Subject: Why is the PhyloCode so strict? (long)

In some places the PhyloCode is stricter than at least the ICZN, and I don't
understand why:
"a clade name must be provided with a phylogenetic definition, written in
English or Latin"
"it will often be worthwhile to include in the protologue an English or
Latin description or diagnosis"

Why only English and Latin, and why still Latin? ~:-| (Does someone know of
any paper in Latin that was published in the last 100 years? On the other
hand, I know lots of vertebrates that weren't described in English.)

The ICZN only has a much more general recommendation here:
"Appendix E. General recommendations.
4. When the description of a new taxon is not written in English, French,
German, Italian, or Latin, it should be accompanied by a translation into
one of those languages.
5. In publications issued in any other language than English, French,
German, Italian, or Latin, the explanations of figures should be translated
into one of these languages."

While I am at it, I still await an "official" reaction to my proposal that
Art. 17.1 should be loosened to
treat all diacritial signs like diaereses. :-)
"Recommendation 17A. Names established under this code should be
pronounceable. Thus, every syllable should contain a vowel (or diphthong),
and combinations of consonants that do not generally occur in either Latin
or English should be avoided unless they are contained within the name of a
person, place, or other entity after which a taxon is named."

The latter phenomenon occurs so often today that the whole recommendation is
rather useless, I think. The q in the dinosaur *Nqwebasaurus thwazi* from
South Africa is a palatal click, and Chinese dinosaurs are almost always
named after the places where they were discovered and/or after Chinese
Of course what is pronounceable or not is _utterly_ subjective. I could
begin long dilettant discussions about whether Welsh w is never a vowel,
likewise for the r of many and l of some Slavic languages. On the other
hand, there are many languages without l, r or sh.

Recently a dissertation in which 3 new dinosaurs are described was mentioned
on the Dinosaur mailing list by George Olshevsky:

> >As I perused the dissertation, I got to thinking about whether or not
> such dissertation names should be considered as published. The
> International Code of Zoological Nomenclature expressly excludes
> dissertations from their definition of a publication, so there is no
> question that the above taxa, despite their documentation in the
> dissertation and its subsequent distribution, are not available as
> scientific names.

The dissertation in question is available on microfilm from UMI.
Tommy Tyrberg answered:

> This is a purely anglosaxon idea. At least in Europe dissertations have
> always been properly published and counted as peer-reviewed
> publications. As a matter of fact in most european countries no
> publication you ever write is likely to be as carefully reviewed as your
> dissertation.
> There is any number of scientific name in use that were originally
> published in dissertations.

and later:

> This idea that a dissertation is not a publication is, as I said before, a
> parochial anglo-saxon idea, and it has not been applied in the past. If
> anyone is interested I can easily supply a number of universally accepted
> avian names that were originally published in dissertations.
> Here in Sweden by the way all dissertations are printed and distributed to
> all university libraries well before the award of the degree. The idea is
> that the dissertation should be available to the scientific community in
> advance. And as for US dissertations, now that You can order them online
> from the UMI they are actually more easily and cheaply available than most
> "proper" publications.

In Austria theses and dissertations are likewise available in university
libraries, which are open to the "general public". Interestingly the current
draft of the PhyloCode is even stricter than the current version of the
ICZN; the dissertation would be considered unpublished for several reasons!

"4.2. Publication [...] is defined as distribution of text [...] in a
peer-reviewed book or periodical. To qualify as published, works must
consist of numerous (at least 100 copies), [...] distributed in a way that
makes the work generally accessible as a permanent public record to the
scientific community, [...]

Note 4.2.1. Approval of a work by a thesis or dissertation committee does
not constitute peer review.

4.3. The following do not qualify as publication: (a) dissemination of text
or images solely through electronic communication networks (such as the
Internet) or through storage media (such as CDs, diskettes, film, microfilm
and microfiche) that require a special device to read; (b) theses and
dissertations; [...]"

I think the special mentionings of theses and dissertations should be
dropped. Art. 4.3 (a) may be a good idea, but the ICZN has dropped its
analogous rule in 1999/2000 (three species of Foraminifera were described in
_Palaeontologia Electronica_ on the web, some CDs were deposited in


Feedback to <> is welcome!