Tuesday, April 20, 2010

How many specimens are good enough for a description?

Paknia and Radchencko describe in their recent paper two new Cataglyphis species from Iran: Cataglyphis pubescens and Cataglyphis stigmatus based samples from one and two locations respectively.

The descriptions are not accompanied by either DNA (Bar-)-Codes nor adequate images. The gray scale images do not live up to standards in the ant world (antweb.org), nor are they good enough to see the characters, nor are they available on existing antsites, not are the males described whose genitalia are the ultimate species level identification tool.

This study contributes to a fauna that is only known from literature references, including a compilation of names that one ought to believe the authors. That this could be done differently demonstrate to recent publications by McArthur and Heterick covering both Australia: The former with a lavishly illustrated compendium and key of the Camponotus of South Australia, the latter with a detailed account and key to the ants of Western Australia.

For anybody working in such an area, it would be of tremendous help, if those species would properly be documented.
I also would recommend to refrain from describing new species from one or two samples outside the context of a generic revision that provides the background why this species deserves to be described based on such poor data.

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