Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Nomenclatorial slopiness (3) - a positive note

Entering all of Seifert's Cardiocondyla revision is like day and night to the publication I critized earlier. Reading through the former is very easy, and most of the spelling of the original combinations is actually following the original citation. Also, it is very clear, what nomenclatorial action is being taken.

Both Seifert's and Alex Wild's revision of Linepithema (including the notorious Argentine ant) include also a list of citation of the species by various authors which is opening yet another cattle of fish: taxonomic concepts.

Ubio is currently the leader in collecting all species names ever published, from the original scientific - they get from specific namer servers - to identifications used in non-taxonomic works to vernacular names, which are especially important in feathery and fury taxa. If we really do want to build up a global digital library of our legacy data (such as the Biodiversity Heritage Library might provide), then we need also to make sure, that we list these taxonomic concepts once we know the proper name of the voucher specimens used in earlier work. Only this way (through the experts opinion) crosswalks using species names can be produced. So, please make sure you add them in your systematics work!

Monday, February 19, 2007

Nomenclatorial slopiness (2) - a positive note

Csösz et al.s paper recently published paper "Taxonomic revision of the Palaearctic Tetramorium chefketi species complex (Hymenoptera: Formicidae)" in Zootaxa 1405 is a nice example, where all the names can easily be found and if not present, added to a Name Server, in this case the Hymenoptera Name Server.

Norm Johnson has created a set of online data entry tools which allows entering new citations and data from any remote place to anybody who has an interest to collaborate.

In the case of Csösz' paper, I am opening up the paper, just copy and paste the respective elements and it shows up in most cases immediately up and I can view the changes through antbase.org. The HNS has even the feature allowing to subsribe to an alert to become aware of such changes. This way, the system is kept up to date as much as possible, of course depending also, whether we are aware of the papers published around the world and in places one would not expect to find new descriptions.

The advantage of Zootaxa paper over Myremcological News is, that once a pdf is available (Myrmecological News provides open access, Zootaxa only on a pay per artcile base), one can easily copy and paste any text, which is not possible generally from Myrmecological News, with the exceptions, when they provide publications with taxonomic content to be included in antbase.org.

Nomenclatorial slopiness

Cataloging and entering nomenclatorial relevant data is best done by machine (if not even better generated by machine and coded accordingly). However, this needs some discipline by the authors to allow at least semiautomatic processing.

Right now, I am looking at Seiferts paper on west Palaearctic Myrmica species where he raises two subspecies to species and makes some synonymies. At least that what he mentions in the abstract.

When you actually read the paper you are overwhelmed by extensive measurements, but very incomplete information on the specimens he used to derive his conclusions. In other words, nobody could reproduce this paper- a standard scientific expectation.

Within the paper he has for some of the taxa a section header, so it is clear he talks about a particular taxon for which he at least provides a list of the taxa he is including (and only from the abstract does one knows that he is actually synonymizing them). It would be much easier for any one abstracting this paper, not to speak of the computer, if there would be a simple acronomy ".n.syn.". But then, for Myrmica spinosior, it is completely implicit that he is rasising this taxon to species level.

There is also the issue about the original citation. For example, he lists "Myrmica lobicornis var. lobulicornis Nylander" as "Myrmica lobicornis lobulicornis" which is a simple detail not necessary for the computer, but an inconsistency because in other places he is using the original citations. When I asked him about another case he just replied that I would surely know what he meant, and that he might have confused this name with what was written on the label. This has no nomenclatorial consequences, as he points out, but it means a lot more work and a lot of hassle for Zoorecord or us who actually try to keep a record of what is being published. And it makes it very difficult to write programs like GoldenGATE, which actually ought to help to transfer our systematics knowledge into a digital world, where all our colleagues could take advantage of. For a taxonomist, who now has allmost all the publications available as pdf, this might be just one step to actually check the original publication and extract the proper original combinations.

In the next case though, it might have consequences. He lists "Myrmica lobicornis lobicornis var. lissahorensis" Stärcke as synonym of Myrmica lobicornis. But this is a quadrinomen, and thus not an available name. The name has been made available by Stitz in 1939:100. Furthermore, in this case, Seifert hasn't looked at the type, but the description only.