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RE: Alamosaurus as biggest North American sauropod
I think you misunderstand. Right now, the subject of nomenclature has _no_
metrics applied to it. There is no process for validating _why_, merely _how_,
an animal gets a name; just as there is no process that says we should or
shouldn't use the names once they've been formulated. The various nomenclatural
codes only care about what is technically valid from the _legal_ standpoint,
yet many names so validated are not used because they are treated as synonyms.
The lack of a system that allows us to qualify _when_ we should name a taxon
leads us to where we are, where people from anywhere can just jump in, name
something, and then insist that name be used. Others with modify taxonomy,
somehow pretend ranks exist and "step up" a taxon from species to "genus" and
insist the latter be used rather than the previous comibination, or vice versa.
The issue of synonymy is another can-o'-worms simply because explicit synonymy
is damned hard to prove without, say, demonstrating the specimens are the exact
same individual, but it requires a substantive amount of material to start
qualifying this (as is happening with the species included in *Triceratops* and
*Edmontosaurus*). We are fortunate that morphometrics and various other
mathematical treatments for large datasets allow us to quantify variation to a
given set, but the nomenclature within the set is shaky: One may treat two
species within the same "genus" as two species each in their own unique
"genus," as every way to compare them is the same, and only the "generic"
This issue is about nomenclature consistency, and that won't happen until
groups agree WHEN and WHEN NOT to name a thing. This leads to the proliferation
of papers doing nothing but "clean up" taxonomy, revising what should or
shouldn't be synonyms, or determining things to be _nomina dubia_ ... as if
that meant _anything_ other than "I don't want anyone else to use this taxon".
It is ultimately about ART, and as we all know, ART is extremely subjective. So
too is nomenclature in taxonomy.
Jaime A. Headden
The Bite Stuff (site v2)
"Innocent, unbiased observation is a myth." --- P.B. Medawar (1969)
"Ever since man first left his cave and met a stranger with a
different language and a new way of looking at things, the human race
has had a dream: to kill him, so we don't have to learn his language or
his new way of looking at things." --- Zapp Brannigan (Beast With a Billion
> From: email@example.com
> To: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com;
> Subject: RE: Alamosaurus as biggest North American sauropod
> Date: Fri, 9 Dec 2011 19:17:07 +0000
> > Date: Fri, 9 Dec 2011 10:50:12 -0700
> > From: firstname.lastname@example.org
> > To: email@example.com; Dinosaur.Mailing.List@listproc.usc.edu
> > Subject: RE: Alamosaurus as biggest North American sauropod
> > As collection and investigation proceeds, we should eventually begin to
> > collect more and more of potentially new taxa. If we relegate our choices
> > for what gets named to reasonably complete specimens and groups of such
> > specimens, regardless of the fact that "the fossil record is incomplete!!",
> > then the taxonomy is likelier to become more stable, not less.
> Then who decides what the minimum acceptible percentage of a specimen is?
> (how complete must the "reasonably complete specimen" be?)
> If edentates or alvarezsaurs were unknown, how much of a skeleton (of either
> of them) would this method require to be recognized as a new taxa?
> > Sustaining the practices of ye old will only provide further momentum to
> > continue the tried and true method practiced by systematics of ye old merry
> > establishments, of Owen and Marsh and Cope continuing to use bits and
> > shreds of skeleton and getting everything terribly wrong.
> So not only should we keep _Brontosaurus_ sunk, but we should also sink
> > We can say that science marches on, but we're having to carry the corpses
> > of dead scientists who were often quite motivated to name anything and
> > everything as though they continue to provide valuable insight on what
> > should be named in the future.
> What comes to mind are, "If I see farther, it is because I stand on the
> shoulders of giants" and "The journey of a thousand miles begins with a
> single step."
> of course, maybe you're right - let's scrap evolution too while we're at it.
> Darwin got a lot of things wrong, and there was a lot that was only learned
> after his death. (one could extend the analogy to physics and Einstein/Newton)
> may I request we not throw the baby out with the bathwater?