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Re: Two open letters from Storrs Olson (LONG)



In a message dated 11/10/99 9:10:43 AM EST, nieuwlnd@let.rug.nl writes:

<< With the publication of "Feathers for T. rex?" by Christopher P. Sloan in 
its November issue, National Geographic has reached an all-time low for 
engaging in sensationalistic, unsubstantiated, tabloid journalism. But at the 
same time the magazine may now claim to have taken its place in formal 
taxonomic literature.
 
 Although it is possible that Mr. Czerkas "will later name" the specimen 
identified on page 100 as Archaeoraptor liaoningensis, there is no longer any 
need for him to do so. Because this Latinized binomial has apparently not 
been published previously and has now appeared with a full-spread photograph 
of the specimen "accompanied by a description or definition that states in 
words characters that are purported to differentiate the taxon," the name 
Archaeoraptor liaoningensis Sloan is now available for purposes of zoological 
nomenclature as of its appearance in National Geographic (International Code 
of Zoological Nomenclature, Article 13a, i). This is the worst nightmare of 
many zoologists---that their chance to name a new organism will be 
inadvertently scooped by some witless journalist. Clearly, National 
Geographic is not receiving competent consultation in certain scientific 
matters. >>

Fortunately, the situation is not this dire. The species Archaeoraptor 
liaoningensis is presently excluded from formal zoological nomenclature under 
ICZN 1985 Article 1(b) paragraph (6), which reads, "[Excluded from the 
provisions of the Code are names proposed...] (6) as means of temporary 
reference and not for formal taxonomic use as scientific names in zoological 
nomenclature." There are enough disclaimers in the body of the article itself 
to fulfill the "temporary reference and not for formal taxonomic use" 
criteria of the paragraph. Implicitly falling under the provisions of this 
paragraph are also such publications as newspapers, newsletters, bulletins, 
press releases, popular magazines, and so forth that might contain taxonomic 
names that will later be formally described.

Prior to 1961 (or perhaps 1931), however, I believe this situation may not 
have been covered by the Code, and any name published anywhere could be 
considered an available name. For example, the dinosaur generic name 
Procheneosaurus originally appeared, without even a type species, solely in a 
caption to a photograph of a Procheneosaurus skeleton in an article by W. D. 
Matthew in 1920, but it was ruled a properly published name when the 
Commission suppressed the formally published name Tetragonosaurus (Parks, 
1935) on a technicality as a junior synonym for the same genus (ICZN Opinion 
#193, sometime in the late 1930s or early 1940s--can't recall the exact date 
offhand--following petition by Lull, as I recall). Since Procheneosaurus has 
priority by three years over the famous name Lambeosaurus--and the type 
species Procheneosaurus praeceps is >probably< based on the skeleton of a 
juvenile Lambeosaurus lambei (Dodson, 1975), type species of Lambeosaurus--it 
may be necessary to sink Lambeosaurus in favor of Procheneosaurus as a junior 
subjective synonym. Procheneosaurus is >on the list of formally accepted 
names<, so it's not likely the Commission would rule to preserve Lambeosaurus 
over Procheneosaurus in the case of a petition to conserve the better-known 
name.