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RE: Names, professional courtesy, and more



Perhaps we encourage the use of the informal specimen names people
already use: "Sue," "Big Al," or whatever.  I understand the hominid
people do that.  It allows very extensive discussion in the community
without scooping anyone's right to name and describe.

  --Toby White

PALAEOS
http://www.palaeos.com

> -----Original Message-----
> From: owner-dinosaur@usc.edu [mailto:owner-dinosaur@usc.edu] 
> On Behalf Of Thomas R. Holtz, Jr.
> Sent: Wednesday, March 13, 2002 7:48 AM
> To: dinosaur
> Cc: Mickey_Mortimer111@msn.com; qilongia@yahoo.com; 
> dino.hunter@cox.net
> Subject: Names, professional courtesy, and more
> 
> 
> Greetings,
> 
> In a hopes to diffuse some tensions here, and to add my $0.02, some
> thoughts:
> 
> * In general, I'm not too fond of the widespread use of 
> nomina nuda and similar premature name announcements in 
> non-technical, fringe technical, and heck, once in a while, 
> technical literature.  The latter case can be from 
> mis-judging timing as anything else: for example, Chiappe 
> using the name of his not-yet-released abelisaurid in 
> "Walking on Eggs" or on an SVP slide
> before the paper is out.   (And no: I don't know when the 
> paper is coming
> out). An especially tricky spot for this is taxonomic lists 
> for particular formations/localities; as these are sometimes 
> done by committee, the primary person responsible for the 
> compilation of the table is not always aware of the current 
> taxonomic status of all names on the list.
> 
> The first category, non-technical, includes popular articles 
> and such: in these cases, the name might slip out because the 
> authors already know what they want to call it, but haven't 
> gotten around to writing the papers yet. Nevertheless, they 
> are so used to calling the fossil by that name that it is 
> second nature.  A special case of this: museum exhibit 
> guides, which can be notorious for prematurely announcing 
> names, or even announcing names that are eventually replaced 
> by others.
> 
> The middle category, what I just dubbed "fringe technical", 
> is the trickiest of all.  This includes nearly all the 
> compilations of "all dinosaur names ever named", whether in 
> print or on the Internet.  (For that matter, the Internet 
> itself has greatly aided-and-abetted fringe technical 
> literature). These publications are not Science as such, and 
> many are done without serious peer review, but they (in 
> principle) try to uphold the virtues of biological 
> nomenclature.  However, they ALSO try to hold to the virtues 
> of "completeness", and therein lies the problem.  I FULLY 
> understand this virtue, and have made plenty of these types 
> of lists in the past.  However, they can cause problems
> 
> Mickey has commented on the "widespread" use of 
> ""Chaoyangosaurus" from 1983-1998, before it was described as 
> Chaoyangsaurus".  This use was NOT widespread, and was 
> essentially absent in the technical literature.  It WAS 
> present in the Great Compilations of Names, but not in (say) 
> _The Dinosauria_, even if some of the authors of the 
> appropriate chapters knew very well that that taxon was 
> coming out eventually.
> 
> So, my general recommendation is that which was followed in 
> The Dinosauria: unless the name is really, truly formally 
> published and out there, be as courteous as possible to the 
> authors and the rest of the community and DON'T use the 
> informal name.  Call the critters "Chilantaisaurus" 
> maortuensis or "new Wyoming megalosaur" or whatever, until 
> the formal name is there, even if you know what names are 
> planned for it.  The croc-workers have behaved much, much 
> more professionally about this, referring to the "Kayenta 
> croc" or the "Fruita croc" (for example) by informal names 
> for *decades*, waiting for these formal names (which are 
> known in the community in some cases) to be published. 
> (Incidentally, are either of these two examples published 
> yet? Must check...).
> 
> So I would advocate the virtue of courtesy over the desire to 
> show that you know a special name, and in problematic cases 
> to favor courtesy.
> 
> Just my opinion; use it as you will.
> 
> * In Mickey's defense, the special case of "Brontoraptor": 
> First off, I and others who've seen specimens or casts are 
> not at all convinced yet it is distinct from _Edmarka_, 
> _Torvosaurus_, or even from _T. tanneri_.  Be that as it may, 
> this name has already wormed its way into the literature in 
> (among other cases) Jerry Harris' _Acrocanthosaurus_ paper 
> (NMMNHS Bulletin 13).  This suite of fossils is one of those 
> that's hard to ignore: it adds a lot of info to our knowledge 
> of Jurassic North American basal tetanurines. I REALLY hope 
> Seigwarth et al. try and get the anatomical description 
> published formally soon.
> 
>               Thomas R. Holtz, Jr.
>               Vertebrate Paleontologist
> Department of Geology         Director, Earth, Life & Time Program
> University of Maryland                College Park Scholars
>               College Park, MD  20742 
> http://www.geol.umd.edu/~tholtz/tholtz.htm
> 
http://www.geol.umd.edu/~jmerck/eltsite
Phone:  301-405-4084    Email:  tholtz@geol.umd.edu
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