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RE: Vitakridrinda publication validity
- To: David Marjanovic <email@example.com>, Dinosaur.Mailing.List@listproc.usc.edu
- Subject: RE: Vitakridrinda publication validity
- From: Jaime Headden <firstname.lastname@example.org>
- Date: Mon, 27 Feb 2012 13:16:41 -0700
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With regards to the Wikipedia issue, I disabused myself of wanting to alter
something on that page after dealing with a variety of discussions regarding
competing editing wars, including but not limited to the hilarity of
"Conservapaedia." I will not mention these other conflicts further, save to
note that I prefer the medium of somewhat more fixed discussion media; hence,
the blog. I think Wikipedia is a fine experiment of a flexible database, but it
depends not on "truth" or "facts" but on the changing moods and prevailing
actions of some editors or others. I do not wish to involve myself in this
particularly, and I do not think it "immoral" to not act within it.
My error on "amphisbaenian/gymnophionan"; the skulls are too bloody similar
On the issue of designating new "families", a much more specific issue
The gymnophionan "family" being erected is based on an argument that purports
morphological distinction between a "genus" and two or more others. This could
have been established with the "genus" alone, and no metric was given in the
paper by which this decision was reached, just that it was. It was offered in
accordance to a previous analysis, Wilkinson et al., which offered a form of
old-time taxonomic revision by distinguishing nine "families" of caecilian,
which was itself generated under no actual metric evaluation: the authors
offered a synopsid of relationships published elsewhere and then just "revised"
them by offering diagnoses and definitions for the names, but gave no -- none,
nada -- method by which to assess the reasoning for the determinations.
The new (unpublished, in regards to the ICZN, and my sensibilities about
unresolved issues regarding digital-only nomenclature with paper-based "proper"
versions) paper distinguishes a species that, in many cases, could just as
easily be a species within *Herpelidae*, and if the authors felt that it
doesn't fall into *Herpeles* or *Gegenophis*, I can think they are justifiable
in using new nomenclature to erect new "genera". Rather, my issue falls on the
"family," which pretends that there is a viable metric of distance that allows
any systematist to tell whether a new rank _is_ present, as if it were a fact
There is an additional issue at play, which I mentioned before, but it
doesn't play as strongly as my dislike for monotypic "families" being raised
because of the so-called "distinctiveness" factor. Nothing about evolution, so
far, tells us that new ranks are generated when animals are particularly novel
in some areas but not in others: the only novelty the animal in question has is
a coalesced (or single) antotic foramen, while stapedial foramina are
_variable_ in other caecilian taxa, and I am simply unfamiliar with the
distribution of rostral cranial fusion of pairs of bones (both premaxillae,
etc.). This isn't to say anything about the validity of a genetic population
for which the name *fulleri* had been useful for. The authors, however, came
across the issue of placing *fulleri* outside of a group of which several
members had previously been given different "generic" names.
Given the choice of lumping them down or splitting them up, the authors chose
the latter, and I can accept this -- except where it results in polyphyly, as
with Fischer et al. recently creating a new "genus-species couplet" for a new
taxon that by happenstance makes *Ophthalmosaurus* paraphyletic. I mention this
case on my blog
where there are two additional options: again, lumping back down, or splitting
further up. But in this case, the authors argued against the latter -- for
which a known name *Baptanodon* is available for one of the mentioned species
-- which just enforces the issue of "distinctiveness = new ranks."
It is my personal opinion that there is a systematized drive for scientists
who deal with nomenclature to want to make new taxonomy, if either for the sake
of meddling or for the sake of recognition of their work: new nomenclature
brings with it a tag with your name on it at the end, and attention, which
itself brings funding. Thus, there is a conflict of interest that favors
systematists to name new taxa, and its is in many ways abetted by the Linnaean
System which affords that each rank should have a name, and where once each
rank down towards a species HAD to have a name, which is primarily the reason
we have so many bloody "families," "orders," and "suborders" in the system to
begin with. This system is not scientific, and doesn't actually help us answer
any scientific questions, nor assess (correctly) evolutionary progression or
descent. It, in fact, obscures it, and thus does a disservice to Science, a
point which I discuss on my blog practically once a month. It is also my
personal opinion that it is far easier to name new taxa than to lump it: few
systematists follow lumping paradigms than follow the use of new nomenclature,
an exception being Jack Horner's arguments regarding reduction of taxonomy by
attempting to show direct subjective synonymy through ontogeny. I think this is
part of the flaw of the system in general.
So, in short, I feel that the system itself needs an overhaul, and trying to
deal with this while working with Wikipedia's system is immensely difficult.
I'd rather have the system revised (and the ICB/ZN abandoned) than work on an
_ad hoc_ basis every time this issue shows up.
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
> Date: Mon, 27 Feb 2012 20:05:11 +0100
> From: firstname.lastname@example.org
> To: email@example.com
> Subject: RE: Vitakridrinda publication validity
> > 1. Perhaps you misunderstood. The issue [I have] with *Ambondro mahabo*
> > is that it is referred to as a genus-species couplet in further
> > literature, not just Wikipedia;
> OK; I'm just saying Wikipedia can be taken care of.
> > This means that taxonomic listings treat it as "genus" + species, not
> > an unranked praenomen in front of a species name.
> It's not even that (in the original paper anyway). It's a uninominal for an
> unranked taxon that has a space in the middle. Not "new species", just "new
> > 2.My issue with changing things on wiki is that just as easily someone
> > who disagrees can change it back. I attempted this on the oviraptorosaur
> > pages, and the changes I had attempted (years back) were undone.
> Did you explain your changes and the reasons for them on the talk page?
> > editors' prerogatives on how they want to allow changes from schmucks
> > like myself.
> Everyone is an editor. (Not everyone is an administrator, but administrators
> seldom meddle in such things.)
> > 3. Also misunderstood, I think. I am referring to the primary body of
> > the text. The designation of *Ambondro mahabo* as it was by Flynn et
> > al. will not not recognized for what it is when "unranked" is used in
> > the infobox. It should be in the main text, and compared to other
> > discussions. This was the primary reason I balked at the editing (plus,
> > I'm also a schmuck).
> I'm not quite sure what you mean. I'll attempt a thorough edit myself
> > One recent example was the "discovery" of a new family of
> > amphisbaenians/gymnophionans
> Amphisbaenians are squamates. Gymnophionans/caecilians are lissamphibians.
> > that has been reported (but is currently unpublished)
> (On paper.)
> > through redesignation of *Gegeneophis fulleri* (nee *Herpele fulleri*)
> > to a new "genus," and the designation of a new "family" to contain it,
> > plus apparently a range of potentially new species within said "genus".
> > The "genus" in question is considered monospecific, and the authors'
> > reasoning is based on typical Linnaeist typological thinking ("this
> > object is very distinct" or "more distinct" -- not actual quotes).
> The genus is easy to justify: in order to lump it with *Herpele*, you'd have
> to lump *Boulengerula* in there as well; in order to lump it with
> *Gegeneophis* (has that species, previously known from a single,
> morphologically badly preserved specimen, ever been referred to
> *Gegeneophis*?), it and most other caecilians would have to be sunk (back)
> into *Caecilia*.
> The family is justified in the paper by comparison to other families in terms
> of morphological distance and divergence time (the diagnosis of Herpelidae
> would have to be changed a lot, and most gymnophionan families are younger
> than the divergence between Herpelidae and the new one). That's the
> Linnaeanist part, of which I have to say the "why not" is as strong as the
> Free pdf:
> Free supplementary information: