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Re: Coelophysis 18, Rioarribasaurus 8

Dinogeorge (6/22/96; 9:50p) wrote:

>_Rioarribasaurus colberti_, generic name and species epithet, are
>placed on the Official Index of Rejected and Invalid Generic [Specific] 
>Names in Zoology, as junior objective synonyms of _Coelophysis bauri_. 
>The new type specimen (neotype) of _Coelophysis bauri_ is the Ghost 
>Ranch skeleton AMNH 7224, the specimen chosen by Hunt & Lucas, 1991 to 
>be the type specimen of _Rioarribasaurus colberti_.

>The stated reason for doing this is strictly to conserve the well-known 
>name _Coelophysis bauri_ in its most frequent application, as designator
>of the Ghost Ranch theropod.

Some of you were probably wondering when I would jump in on this one.  
The ICZN decision agrees with my earlier stated position on this issue, 
which is also in agreement with how I thought such nomeclatorial issues 
should be handled according to accepted practice in paleontology.  I 
learned about these practices for the first time in about 1970, in a 
graduate seminar at Indiana University on taxonomic procedures in 
paleontology, taught by the late Thomas G. Perry, who at the time was the 
lone editor of the Journal of Paleontology--a work load that some of us 
think led to his premature (age 51--my current age) death from a heart 
attack in about 1974.  His face showed the stress the last time I saw 

Anyway, my understanding was that we should strive to maintain 
nomenclatorial stability, and that the credit for discovery and naming 
should remain, by conserving the names, with the these competent people 
who did the work according to standards and the state of knowledge 
existing at the time.  Colbert et al. referred the Ghost Ranch material 
to _Coelophysis_ according to standards in effect when that material was 
discovered.  The state of the art has changed since then, and maybe we 
can determine NOW that the Ghost Ranch material is different from 
_Coelophysis_, as originally diagnosed.  But in the mean time, the Ghost 
Ranch material has come to embody the concept of _Coelophysis_.  In this 
sense, it is correct to retain the "most frequent" application of the 

I think that _Marasuchus_ is also an inappropriate name.  Since 
subsequent studies have shown that the type material for _Lagosuchus_ is 
non-diagnostic, new type material (neotype) should have been selected for 
_Lagosuchus_, thus conserving this important name, but attaching it to an 
improved concept demonstrated by the neotype, as the science has advanced 
to give us this improved concept and additional material.

Our specific, generic, etc. concepts will continue to improve, and the 
nomenclature will become chaotic if new names are proposed for such 
improvements.  As someone on this list said previously, these taxonomic 
names are intended to aid effective communication among scientists.  But 
now, when someone uses the name _Lagosuchus_, we need to ask whether 
he/she means the "old, original" _Lagosuchus_, or really means 
_Marasuchus_.  How has this state of affairs improved communication?

I visited the AMNH recently and observed the prominent display of 
_Lagosuchus_ (NOT _Marasuchus_) near the beginning of the dinosaur 
displays.  Now, people will be looking for discussion of _Lagosuchus_ in 
books on fossil vertebrates, and I hope they continue to find it, but not 
following some notation like "see _Marasuchus_, followed by a convoluted 
explanation as to why _Lagosuchus_ isn't the right name any more.  I 
can't wait to see how the 
_Coelophysis_-->_Rioarribasaurus_-->_Coelophysis_ story will be handled.  
If we stick to traditional ways (which were established for a reason) of 
handling advances in knowledge and practice in paleontology, such 
situations should cease to arise.

OK, that's my soap-box spiel for today.  But I have a question.  
Dinogeorge and others have referred on occasion to _nomen nudums_ 
(_nuda_?) created on stamps or in other equally unsatisfactory media.  My 
understanding is that such "publication" of a name has never qualified to 
introduce a taxonomic name, hence such media do not, in fact, establish 
nomen nudums(?), or anything else that we need to keep track of.  Aren't 
the rules clear as to what counts as a valid medium of publication for a 
name, and that a stamp, for example, doesn't qualify?

Norman R. King                                       tel:  (812) 464-1794
Department of Geosciences                            fax:  (812) 464-1960
University of Southern Indiana
8600 University Blvd.
Evansville, IN 47712                      e-mail:  nking.ucs@smtp.usi.edu