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Archaeoraptor still a nomen nudum
From: Ben Creisler email@example.com
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
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
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
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
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.