Monday, March 05, 2007

Nomenclatorial sloppiness (4) and a stinking dead cow

Sloppiness and a dead cow

Another paper I entered recently which make me think of the value of entering names into our databases so we could in future read all our publications by machines. But it needs somebody going through often confusing prose....

here the problems I encountered in Collingwood and Van Harten's "Additions to the ant fauna of Yemen":

Pachycondyla senaarensis; ought to be sennaarensis
Cardiocondyla yemene: ought to be Cardiocondyla yemeni
Cardiocondyla schuckardi: ought to be shuckardi
Crematogaster flaviventris Santchi, clandestinely raised to species in this paper
Monomorium phoenicium: ought be phoenicum (see quadrinomen below). But originally described as Monomorium salomonis subopacum var. phoenicia by Emery 1908: 677, then cited as Monomorium (Xeromyrmex) subopacum v. phoenica Emery in Santschi 1927 in his listing of Monomorium (Xeromyrmex) subopacum v. phoenicum
Monomorium wahibiense: ought to be wahibense
Technomyrmex bruneipes Forel: clandestinely raised to species
Camponotus spissinodis Forel: clandestinely raised to species
Lepisiota opaciventris (Finzi): clandestinely raised to species

Quadrinomen, a (stinking) dead cow

I am not sure, but it was Bolton who decided to get rid of quadrinomen by just dimissing them. The Code allows to disregard quadrinomen, and so, tacitly, the first author using the name at least as trinomen becomes the author. But many of them, like Santschi in the case of Monomorium phoenicum (and more recent authors as well), didn’t care, and implicitly accept the type of the new species as the one belonging to the quadrinomen and so fixed unintentionally, thus the new species is not valid, since no type species has been fixed properly. So, following suit of Bolton's iron broom, we ought to dismiss all the subsequently raised taxa.

But this is only part of the story: If we want to collect all the names though the Biodiversity Heritage Library and Ubio, then we need somebody sitting here, like I right now, curating all these names. I have the priviledge to have a system, where I can look up all the original literature, but spend nevertheless on the above document so much time, that I think twice about the value I am getting out of this. Clearly, getting the name is only one part - and in fact none with which I can get any scientific cridentials. It only begins to add up, once I can access all the localities mentioned in this paper - but this is yet another nut to crack, and a huge time investment.

So, when I think about building up an Encyclopedia of Life project which has hardly any money for this kind of work - work that can not be done by machine nor by untrained people - I just wonder where we end up. And this Yemen paper is just a simple paper....


Anonymous said...

Dear Donat,

the author's name is part of the scientific name, so it should be, as well, orthographycally well written, the Crematogaster flaviventris Santchi, should read Snatschi!!

Silver Fox 2

Anonymous said...


I meant: Santschi