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Regarding the Rob Gay publication



Posted for Ralph Molnar.  (Hopefully the long segment from the  referenced 
file will not be truncated.  If anyone wants the complete  pdf, let me know.)
-Mary
_____________
 
The concerns regarding Rob Gay's two recent publications via 'Lulu'  
possibly circumventing professional publishing standards is by no means a new  
problem. As described in the below file, a rather more serious such  incident 
occurred in the Australian herpetological community in the 1980's in  which 
two amateur herpetologists published a series of revisions of the Aussie  
herpetofauna, introducing large numbers of new taxa, in a journal published,  
edited & (I believe) reviewed by these same two authors. At the time, the  
ICZN reportedly responded to members of the professional herpetological  
community that there was no breach of the ICZN rules. I suggest that looking  
into this affair may provide some perspective on Gay's recent actions.
As a  long-time reviewer (and ex-editor), I also wish to point out that 
publication in  a peer-reviewed journal doesn't always result in a paper that 
satisfies the  reviewers of that paper. One sometimes wonders if the editors 
read the  reviewer's comments, although I have also sometimes wondered if 
the reviewers  actually read the ms they are reviewing. In other words, the 
reviewing process,  although often very useful, is by no means perfect. The 
critical issue is less  whether or not a paper has gone through the 
appropriate formalities, than how  well it's conclusions hold up in the light 
of 
future research and  discovery.
 
Sincerely, Ralph E. Molnar
________
 
Wells and Wellington - It's time to bury the hatchet!
by Raymond T.  Hoser*
*New Address: 488 Park Road, Park Orchards, Victoria, 3134,  Australia.
Phone: (03) 9812 3322 Fax: (03) 9812 3355 Mobile: 0412 777  211
E-mail: adder@smuggled.com
Hoser, R. T. (2007). Wells and Wellington -  It's time to bury the hatchet! 
Calodema Supplementary Paper,
No. 1: 1-9.
A  new year in a new millennium is a good time to take stock of herpetology 
in  Australia and
where it is heading and this is what this article seeks to do.  A 
dispassionate look at the
science, taxonomy and nomenclature as being used  in the Australian 
herpetological scene leads
to the inescapable conclusion  that it's progress is being severely 
hampered by the general  nonacceptance
and usage of names assigned to species and genera by two men in  the early 
1980's.
They were of course Richard W. Wells and Cliff Ross  Wellington.
Now before I continue with my appraisal of the present, I'll step  back 
into the past and
explain how we got into the current mess.
On pages  161-198 of the 1963 edition of his book Reptiles of Australia, 
Eric  Worrell
published a current listing of all known Australian reptilian taxa,  
synonyms and the like in a
so-called "Checklist of Australian Reptiles". It  was in effect a complete 
catalogue and by far
the most complete checklist of  Australian herpetofauna to that date. 
Cogger expanded on this
when in 1983 he  published Zoological Catalogue of Australia (1) Amphibia 
and Reptilia,
which  was almost immediately accepted as the current and accepted list of 
"in use"  names for
herpetological taxa here in Australia. Now due to the size of  Australia's 
herpetofauna (in
terms of species diversity) and the fact that  historically they have been 
relatively
understudied, it was of no surprise  that there were glaring deficiencies 
in this list in terms of
well-known  species being omitted and numerous taxa of different 
phylogenetic origins  being
lumped into single genera. More than anything else, Cogger's work  didn't 
so much give a
listing of the current status of Australia's  herpetofauna and it's 
taxonomic status, but rather
highlighted the  deficiencies in this listing.
By way of example, the idea that all Australian  monitors should be placed 
into the single
genus "Varanus", is clearly not  within the modern taxonomic definition of 
the term (âGenusâ)
as applied to  other reptile groups such as skinks, agamids and so on. 
Ditto for the  Australian
tree frogs, which while immensely variable were still  anachronistically 
being placed into the
single genus "Litoria". Sooner or  later this would have had to be changed, 
as for example, had
happened with  the tree frogs from Eurasia and North America.
In many ways the burning  question was "who" would be the person or persons 
who conduct
Calodema  Supplementary Paper, No. 1. (2007)
Page 1

these taxonomic reviews, not  when this would occur. Now most readers of 
this article will be
aware that in  most cases one doesn't have to be a genius, or have decades 
of academic  training
to be able to work out which species are alike and which are not. In  fact, 
most species and
generic placements in zoology were made by people with  relatively little, 
if any formal
training in the given areas. This was  especially true in the older days of 
late last century and
early this  century. Enter Wells and Wellington.
The "who" question was effectively  answered when in 1983 and 1985, the two 
men
published a series of papers  reclassifying all of Australasia's (and New 
Zealand's)
herpetofauna as it was  then known (Wells and Wellington 1983, 1985a, 
1985b). While some
of their  taxonomic changes at the genus and species level are either 
questionable and/or  on the
surface appear to be in error (some most certainly are error, e.g. see  
Hoser 2000 for
examples), the inescapable fact is that in the main, most of  their 
taxonomic acts do in fact do
little more than state the obvious and  make what were in effect long 
overdue changes and
corrections to the  Australian taxonomy and nomenclature. Again perhaps the 
best example of
this  is the long overdue division of the Australian tree frogs from 
"Litoria" into  the
appropriate genera. Now in the case of these frogs, numerous previous  
authors had already
identified these new Wells and Wellington genera as  "species groups", even 
in the popular
literature, but without going the next  step and assigning genus names to 
them, so these new
names were not bolts out  of the blue as such, but rather in effect a 
statement of the obvious.
The  only thing "radical" as such by the actions of Wells and Wellington 
was that  they had
done the following: (a) Conducted such a huge reclassification and  
renaming of so many
species at one time, namely theyâd proposed a total of  357 taxonomic and 
nomenclatural
acts/changes, and (b) Done the above,  allegedly without consulting other 
herpetologists who
claimed interest in  and/or expertise in the relevant fields. In the case 
of the first, there  is
nothing wrong in any way with what Wells and Wellington did and there is  
no need for them
to defend their actions. For the rest of Australia's  herpetologists, Wells 
and Wellington had
effectively hastened and  short-cutted a process that without their 
intervention would have
inevitably  taken place over the next few decades anyway. In the case of 
the second  point
above, the pair claim to have consulted widely and say that they were  torn 
between a desire
to respect the wishes of others to investigate and  describe taxa and the 
inevitable risk that
people may "claim" various taxa,  only to monopolize them and then do 
nothing for several
years, which then  goes against the guidelines and spirit of the ICZN's 
code. Wells  and
Wellington say they assessed each taxa on it's merits in terms of who  
claimed knowledge on
them and whether or not they'd be likely to publish on  them in the 
forseeable future.
Nearly twenty years after these publications,  the issue as to who was 
right or wrong in terms
of point 2 above are no  longer relevant. The names have been validly 
assigned and if they
identify  previously unnamed taxa, must be used - period! There have been a 
number  of
accusations made against the Wells and Wellington papers and the two men  
themselves. I
won't list all of them here, but these arguments have been  raised as 
reasons by others to
Calodema Supplementary Paper, No. 1.  (2007)
Page 2

continue not to use the names assigned by Wells and  Wellington. One 
argument is that their
descriptions have been too brief and  therefore shouldn't be used. While 
many are indeed very
brief, the fact is  that (with very few exceptions) they conform to the 
ICZN's code at the  time
and thus are "legal" so to speak. More importantly the precedent of  
brevity in descriptions is
not something the Wells and Wellington pair  started. In fact numerous 
other noted
taxonomists such as Glen Storr, John  Gray, Olive Stull and others are also 
noted for their
brief descriptions.  That these earlier people were not attacked for the 
brevity of  their
descriptions, makes these brevity attacks on the Wells and Wellington  
papers seem a little bit
hollow.
Then there's the issue that in some of  their descriptions, Wells and 
Wellington failed to
provide a proper  "diagnosis" for the species they named and thus the 
descriptions are  invalid.
Wells and Wellington counter that they have covered this point in  their 
descriptions by
referring to other people's descriptions of live  animals and/or photos in 
books and other
publications. Regardless of the  merits of either side, this alleged defect 
in the Wells and
Wellington  descriptions only occurs in a handful of the hundreds of 
taxonomic acts the  pair
did and so in the overall scheme of things are not terribly significant  in 
terms of the
acceptance of most of what they did.
--