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Archaeoraptor still a nomen nudum



From: Ben Creisler bh480@scn.org

I think George has been too kind and generous with Olson's 
muddled take on the nomenclatural status of Archaeoraptor. 
I don't give Olson the benefit of the doubt--the name is 
STILL a nomen nudum as I read the ICZN. The better course 
for now would be to send a letter to Nature FIRST, 
pointing out the possible problem with the name 
Microraptor if Archaeoraptor was somehow made available 
and  aggressively asserting that Archaeoraptor remains a 
nomen nudum under a strict reading of the rules of 
zoological nomenclature--despite Olson's various 
statements and actions.  

I don't see the point of  involving the Committee in this 
mess if it can be avoided--the problem is Olson's 
misreading--or nonreading--of the Code, not the true 
status of  the name Archaeoraptor.  A letter to Nature 
would reach a wider audience, be published sooner and be 
more appropriate in my opinion--and would serve to confirm 
the valid status of Microraptor and the correct authorship 
in Nature. If Olson or someone else THEN claims that 
Archaeoraptor should be the valid name, a petition to the 
International Committee on Zoological Nomenclature might 
be in order. 

The crucial points in determining the status of the name 
Archaeoraptor are the following:

Was the name Archaeoraptor laoningensis made available by 
the Nov. 1999 issue of National Geographic? As George has 
pointed out, the answer is NO--National Geographic is not 
recognized for purposes of zoological nomenclature and 
statements in the text clearly indicate that the name will 
be officially published in the future along with a 
scientific description. 

I would emphasize that the ICZN indicates that any 
description associated with a name that is disclaimed as 
Archaeoraptor was CANNOT be cited as the basis for the 
diagnosis of a taxon. See this from the 4th edition of the 
ICZN:
Criteria of Publication:
Article 7. Application. The provisions of the Chapter 
apply to the publication not only of  a new scientific 
name, but also to that of any nomenclatural act or 
information likely to affect nomenclature. 

Thus under Article 7 of the ICZN, both the name 
Archaeoraptor and the mixed-up description in the text of 
the National Geographic article are disclaimed for 
purposes of zoological nomenclature and were 
not "published" as required by the Code to make the name 
available.

Olson's commentary in the April 2000 issue of Backbone 
contains NO description that purports to differentiate 
Archaeoraptor from other taxa as required by ICZN Art. 
13.1, so there is effectively no scientific description of 
Archaeoraptor attached to the name.

Two minor technical points also deserve mention:
1. Olson gives no formal indication that the name is new 
for purposes of zoological nomenclature as required by 
Art. 16.1.
2. Olson's designation of a "lectotype" is contrary to the 
provisions of the Code, that recognizes a lectotype as "a 
syntype designated as the single name-bearing type 
specimen subsequent to the establishment of  a nominal 
species or subspecies." Since the National Geographic 
article did not establish a nominal species, there was no 
grounds for creating a lectotype.

Taken together, these shortcomings in Olson's attempt to 
attach the name Archaeoraptor to a dinosaur pretty well 
nullify his efforts and leave the name a nomen nudum. 
Under a strict reading of the ICZN, Olson's misguided 
actions do not sink Microraptor nor deprive the 
paleontologists who published the full scientific 
description of their authorship.