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Re: Nomina nuda and crap species
I've been following these threads on the DML and over at SV-POW! with great
interest, not to mention a little dismay, since things have grown a tad
heated of late. As it happens, I've enjoyed cordial correspondence with -
and learned a tremendous amount from - both dedicated amateurs and
professional paleontologists alike. The former group includes some
self-publishers, and while I recognize that serious issues are being raised
here that warrant discussion, it would seem that in this, of all fields,
said discussions should be more evolutionary than devolutionary in nature.
In his recent post, Graeme Worth raises an issue I've long pondered, and
because I hope it spurs some additional discussion, I thought I'd toss the
perspective of another layperson into the ring. Dinosaur paleontology seems
to stand out in terms of having a following of hard core enthusiasts who
simply want to learn more. I'm a textbook example of the sort of person
Graeme described in his post. A collector and a completist by nature (as
well as someone who loves to organize, sort, collate...), I want to know not
only about every dinosaur and pterosaur, but also about every dinosaur and
pterosaur name, ever to have been published. (This excludes fictitious ones,
of course. I follow Olshevsky's rule for his Dinosaur Genera List in that a
name has to be based on actual skeletal material to be of interest).
Consequently, for me, identifying and getting my hands on, say, a popular
book that includes half a dozen nicknames for as yet unpublished dinos is
just as important as nabbing the next peer-reviewed journal article that
erects a new genus and species. True, I learn much more from the latter, but
the collector in me sees them as equally important. So, is this pursuit
misguided? I certainly hope it isn't. It's of interest to me, and serves to
further my knowledge, so I'm hard-pressed to see it as a bad thing.
That said, for the professional, I'm sure herein lies some of the hazards of
our age. The Internet, the open access movement, and public forums like the
DML (not to mention your own good will and outreach efforts!) have done
wonders toward making learning accessible to anyone who has an interest.
That's a good thing, but I'm certain there are a lot of beginners out there
who don't recognize the consequences if a name from a dissertation, for
example, is bandied about freely via email or on public forums. (As a
disconcerting aside, it's with surprising frequency that I receive from
fellow enthusiasts - always unsolicited, mind you - unpublished and often
unsubmitted manuscripts. How these are acquired I have no idea, but whenever
it happens, I respond to the sender and strongly suggest that they stick the
PDF in a folder marked 'Quarantine' and leave it the Hell alone until the
paper is formally published.)
Anyway, Dan Chure's suggestion that it's worth learning about the ICZN Code
is perfectly valid, and I think it would hold value for anyone with a
serious interest in the field. But it's important to remember that
professionals don't hold a monopoly on learning about a subject of interest.
I'm sure I'm not alone in being a casual, if serious-minded enthusiast who
performs independent research for the sheer enjoyment of furthering my
knowledge. To what extent is it reasonable to assume that these people, who
come at paleo purely as a hobby, have responsibilities for understanding the
good practices and the rules governing the field? I dunno. I for one try to
do no harm, and recognizing my limitations, attempt to limit my posts on the
DML to those that have at least a little substance and might be of interest
to a reosonable number of readers. Personally, my interest in the field is
great enough that I did take the time to familiarize myself with the Code,
but I'm not sure if it's a reasonable expectation for all enthusiasts.
Returning to Graeme's point, it has always seemed to me that once these
names are out there, there's really no turning back. People will indeed find
them - they will ask about them, blog about them, discuss them...
Dissertation names aside, I've never really understood why there's a
perception that interest in nomina nuda should be deflected. For dinosaur
novices and casual researchers, list compilers like Olshevsky (and I might
add, also capable dinosaur software developers like Graeme) serve a very
valuable function in providing an excellent jumping off point for conducting
lit searches and learning more. It seems to me that including nomina nuda in
these venues, provided that they are clearly identified as such so the
status of the each name is made clear, can only help. Is there something
----- Original Message -----
From: "Dan Chure" <email@example.com>
Sent: Saturday, June 12, 2010 4:28 AM
Subject: Re: Nomina nuda and crap species
Spend some time learning about the Code of Zoological Nomenclature.
That is as least as important as collecting names.
Graeme Worth wrote:
There seems to me to be a point in all this that has not been
addressed. Much as we all abhor the proliferation of these "nonsense"
taxa, ignoring them and pretending they don't exist does not seem
particularly helpful. The names will still be there, in whatever
newspaper, self-published brochure, webpage, forum discussion etc. In
most cases, the original report does not contain anything indicating
that these taxa have not been properly diagnosed or should not have
been named. So what does the dinosaur beginner do with these taxa? He
will find them, of that you can be certain. If all he finds is the
original report, how is he expected to make a judgement? Would it not
be better to accept these taxa and include them in appropriate lists
with appropriate comments pointing out the shortfalls and indicating
that these should not be considered valid taxa?
Over to you
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