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Re: Botanical Nomenclature

  • Subject: Re: Botanical Nomenclature
  • From: "Christopher Rogers" <CRogers@ecoanalysts.com>
  • Date: Mon, 20 Jul 2009 08:20:13 -0700

Although I am not a botanical taxonomist or systematist, I am a zoological taxonomist and systematist. Like Peter Boyce, I have discovered and described numerous species new to science, as well as a few new genera and other taxonomic ranks. There most definitely are absolutes. It is equally vital to be aware of all the names any given species (or other taxon) has had, so that the history of the taxonomy is available if needed. In this way, a taxon can be searched for using both the correct name and any previous names. The previous names are called "junior synonyms". The litany of old names is called a synonymy. 
There is a lot of information n the scientific name of an organism. Take Typhonium venosum (Dryand. ex Aiton, 1789). The name "Typhonium" is the genus name. "venosum" is the specific epithet. Taken together they are a species name. A species name is always a binomial (that is a two part name). But the name is really not complete without the describer and date. in this case the describer was Dryand. The "ex Aiton" portion, means that Dryand published in a larger work by Aiton. Now, if Dryand had originally described this species in the genus Typhonium, the author and date would not be in parentheses. But because he originally described this plant in the genus Arum, the parentheses are used. This alerts taxonomists that when researching this plant to look for the species under a different name in the original publication. It becomes a bit more confusing, because this plant has been moved about through several genera (Desmesia, Sarumatum and Jaimenostia). However the full synonymy can be found in Hetterscheid & P.C. Boyce, 2000 in Aroidiana.
Accession numbers are important for individual specimens. The accession number of a type specimen is important for the taxon. The specimen or specimens used to describe a taxon are the "type specimens". The types are the primary standard that defines the taxon (whether the taxon is a species, genus, family or what ever). The type specimens come from a "type locality". If the types are lost, or more type material is needed, one can return to the type locality and collect more material, or "topotypes".
Taxonomy is a science and must follow the scientific method. Reproducibility is one of the fundamental supporting pillars of the scientific method: other workers must be able to arrive at the same conclusions using the same materials, methods and data as the worker making the original determination. If a conclusion is not reproducible, it is not science. Reproducibility in taxonomy is achieved through the deposition of type material that can be examined in public museums, type localities that can be visited by other workers, and standardized descriptions published in journals where each paper reviewed by the author's peers. These methods are further elucidated in the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature and the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature. These codes provide a unique binomial scientific name for every species and determine the validity of scientific names. The first international zoological code was proposed at the First International Congress of Zoology in Paris in 1889. The first formal published edition of this code, the ICZN, was published in 1961 and is regularly updated by the International Commissions and ratified by the International Union of Biological Sciences. Unequivocally taxonomy is science, is repeatable, and has absolutes. 
It may seem like species names are changed capriciously. However science is a cumulative process. No one gets it all right the first time. As more new species with new morphological and genetical characters are discovered and as more new techniques are developed for analyzing those character states, more new information is generated. The result is that taxonomists change names as the results of their analyses converge on the biological reality of the evolutionary relationships of these amazing organisms.
I know I went on for a bit, but I hope this all makes sense.
Happy days,
D. Christopher Rogers
Invertebrate Taxonomist
Telephone: 530.383.4798
EcoAnalysts, Inc.
PO Box 4098
Davis, CA 95616


From: aroid-l-bounces@gizmoworks.com on behalf of Peter Boyce
Sent: Sat 18-Jul-09 12:26 AM
To: 'Discussion of aroids'
Subject: Re: [Aroid-l] Botanical Nomenclature

Hi Michael,


There most certainly is (are) several absolutes in Bot. Nom. There are a series of rules about valid and effective publication. This is not the place to go into a long explanation about the rules that govern taxonomists and systematists but for a flavour of what governs us take a look at: http://ibot.sav.sk/icbn/main.htm


Very best






From: aroid-l-bounces@gizmoworks.com [mailto:aroid-l-bounces@gizmoworks.com] On Behalf Of Riley2362@aol.com
Sent: 18 July 2009 01:10
To: aroid-l@gizmoworks.com
Subject: Re: [Aroid-l] Botanical Nomenclature


Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't believe there is anything such thing as an ABSOLUTE in botanical nomenclature.  So the use of the words "right, wrong, legal, illegal" are not really fitting.  Botanists publish infromation in order to have their work recognized by the scientific community and this lends "validation" to their work, so in the end, their names might be "recognized" or "accepted" as "more correct".  That is why data bases usually contain all publications, rather than a biased perspective that whoever compiled the database has ruled on the acceptance of any set of information.  Yes, it is confusing to horticulturists who just want to put a name on a plant label, but the history is informative to the evolution and classification of the plant material.  What is more important than a plant name would be an accession number that correlates to a time and place of collection.  

Michael Riley



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