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Re: Platecarpus tympaniticus - how to analyze a nomen dubium



 On 22.09.2010 04:21 CEST, Anthony Docimo wrote:

> I'm not actually endorsing the view that _Ceratops montanus_ is a
> nomen dubium (though I suspect it is). My argument is that given
> the meager remains, _Ceratops montanus_ is a poor choice to name a
> family after. Both the ICZN Code and PhyloCode agree that the
> family Ceratopsidae must include _Ceratops montanus_. Thus,
> Ceratopsidae must be defined such that it includes _Ceratops
> montanus_ as a specifier. But because _Ceratops montanus_ is
> unlikely to contribute anything meaningful to a phylogenetic
> analysis, _Ceratops montanus_ is unlikely to be used to anchor any
> clade (including Ceratopsidae).

 here's my thought....

 _Ceratopsidae_ was named for _Ceratops_, but now includes many other
 genera and species - who were placed in _Ceratopsidae_ because their
 describers felt they (the fossils) had features denoting their
 placement within _Ceratopsidae_.

 So, can't we use the shared features of _Ceratopsidae_ members as an
 anchor?

Under the ICZN, we can't use any features for a _definition_. The ICZN definition of Ceratopsidae is "whichever family *Ceratops montanus* belongs to" (...and "family" is not defined). Features only make this definition applicable in practice (...once you, personally, for yourself, have decided what to mean by "family", har har!), but they're not part of the definition in theory.

Under the PhyloCode, we can. That would result in an apomorphy-based definition; duke it out with Mickey M. :-)

 well until the PhyloCode comes online and replaces Linnaean taxonomy
 completely, we have to work with the Linnaean system.

But only as far as the Linnaean system actually goes. As has been mentioned, the ICZN only really governs taxon names at species-group, genus-group and family-group ranks; above those, there are few rules other than to use the basic 26 letters in a name, to make it grammatically plural, and to start it with a capital letter -- I'm not sure, but apparently even synonymy and homonymy don't apply (and they're never treated as if they applied in practice).