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Re: tiny-armed theropods

On Thu, Oct 13, 2011 at 6:55 PM, Tim Williams <tijawi@gmail.com> wrote:
> Actually, in light of the fact that _Troodon_ is a controversial
> genus, and possibly a nomen dubium (as noted most recently by Zanno et
> al., 2011, for example), the situation you mention is not absurd at
> all.  (Although as Mike K. noted, Saurornithoididae would be the
> preferred replacement name).  I mooted the possibility of Troodontidae
> being replaced by Saurornithoididae a few years ago:
> "If _Troodon_ is declared a nomen dubium, then there's no
> objective reason to maintain Troodontidae in preference to Saurornithoididae
> any more than we would use Deinodontidae in preference to Tyrannosauridae.

No objective reason other than the fact that there is no justification
for such abandonment in any code, ICZN, ICPN or otherwise. As far as I
can tell neither recognize any effect of nomina dubia on taxonomy. If
the companion volume is already pretty much written and waiting for
publication, certainly Troodontidae will be the name getting
definitional priority, so better start drafting an appeal for
suppression. If it were really desirable to avoid names based on
nomina dubia, why doesn't PhyloCode stipulate that clades can't be
anchored on them?

How is abandoning Troodontidae, which is currently used universally in
the literature, better for stability than re-instating Deinodontidae?
Some people seem to be arguing that it's better to conserve whatever
names are currently in vogue in the name of stability. Others seem to
be saying we should chuck widely-used names if their types are
dubious, lost, etc. AFAIK nobody is arguing that the phylogenetic
position of _T. formosus_ is so unstable that (Troodon > Passer) and
(Saurornithoides > Passer) are potentially different clades.

As you can probably tell I'm having trouble wrapping my head around
the idea that this whole "nomenclature should be stable but also
changeable at the drop of a hat depending on arbitrary, case by case
basis criteria" thing is better than "here are the rules, follow them
as much as is practical, petitioning the community if you think change
is necessary, and if some names based on poor types get through, who

Isn't the philosophy that current consensus and currently most stable
nomenclature (which is always changing as old diagnostic characters
are found to be more broadly distributed) better served by having no
nomenclatural code at all?