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Re: The pterosaur in the egg: a new report (joke)

On 26/8/04 7:13 pm, "Jaime A. Headden" <qilongia@yahoo.com> wrote:

> Tim Williams (twilliams_alpha@hotmail.com) wrote:
> <The next issue of _Martha Stewart Living_ will feature my description
> (and  vague diagnosis) of _Supercalifragilisticexpialidocisaurus rex_.
> The type  specimen is a skeleton I once saw in a book.>
> And if the type was valid, a real specimen, and in the
> description/naming published in a form which coincides with the Code, it
> would be valid, even if it would be made a synonym, or its diagnostic
> nature doubtful. This is not really the point. One should try to separate
> what one _likes_ from the rulings of the Code. Hopefully, in the next
> recognized "legal" Code to take priority, the rules may have a more
> concise, less broad statement on criteria for publication, so that it will
> be more clear where, when, and how such names can be formed. This is not
> to dismiss Peters' name, but to enforce that it be published in a more
> reviewing, more scientific forum than a "dinosaurologists'" magazine.

    One thing which has been noted in the discussion of the past few days is
that the rules for what constitutes a valid publication are fairly vague.
Nevertheless, there are reasons for its vagueness:

    1) There is no official list of 'valid publication fora', and nor could
there be. For a start, many names are published in books, not journals. To
have to register every new book that comes out would no doubt slow the
publication process down immensely. Also, the proportion of taxonomic works
published in books is probably increasing, as less and less journals these
days are willing to publish lengthy articles. The ICZN (and the ICBN)
doesn't insist on peer-review, and it's doubtful if it should. Most books
are not peer-reviewed, and many journals aren't either. Peer review is also
no guarantee of quality, and to insist on it would probably disadvantage
workers or journals with less funding, who may not be able to afford access
to such facilities.
    2) The suggestion has apparently been mooted in ICZN (and in botanical)
discussions as to the possibility of a central registry of names, that any
new names would have to be entered into. While this may sound like a simple
idea, it's not so in practice. Any registry would require funding to
maintain it, more than (for instance) the ICZN could supply on its current
shoestring budget. Again, there would also be something of a bias against
researchers in poorer countries or institutions, who might not be able to
keep themselves abreast of such things (imagine if the Zoological Record was
to be made the official depository - last I heard, a subscription to the
complete Record cost a few thousand a year). Not to mention private
researchers doing taxonomy in their spare time, of which paleontology in
particular has much to be grateful.
    The only code that currently effectively requires registration is the
Code of Bacterial Nomenclature - as all names must be published in the
International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology to be
valid, it effectively acts as a registry. However, work on bacterial
taxonomy requires a well-stocked laboratory, implying a certain degree of
funding to begin with, so I don't think it can necessarily be used as a
model for other codes.

    Another points which has arisen is the naming of specimens described
elsewhere and/or held by other researchers. However, just as an example of a
case justifying this, many a work has been published posthumously, and often
the editor or compiler of such a work has to name species the original
worker did not get time to. Also, a researcher may publish a preliminary
description of a specimen without naming it, and may simply refer to that
description when applying a name later to save space (a priority these days
when, as I said, articles often need to be short). Hence, the rules are as
they are to allow for such or other cases.

    The current ICZN is vague on some points, and it may seem overly
forgiving. But the fact that it is so forgiving is actually one of its
virtues - that it may be used any time, anywhere, and one does not
necessarily need ready access to vast wads of cash to take advantage of it.


        Christopher Taylor