ECN-L Archives

Entomological Collections Network Listserve


Options: Use Forum View

Use Monospaced Font
Show HTML Part by Default
Show All Mail Headers

Message: [<< First] [< Prev] [Next >] [Last >>]
Topic: [<< First] [< Prev] [Next >] [Last >>]
Author: [<< First] [< Prev] [Next >] [Last >>]

Print Reply
Doug Yanega <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Doug Yanega <[log in to unmask]>
Wed, 12 Sep 2018 20:06:45 -0700
text/plain (5 kB) , text/html (5 kB)
Hi, all.

Among the things that have arisen in the aftermath of the terrible fire 
this month in Brazil's Museu Nacional - a tragedy that affects many in 
the global scientific community - are numerous public comments regarding 
the loss of the thousands of holotype specimens housed in Rio, and how 
difficult it will be to replace them all. The latter assertion - 
implying or claiming that *all *of the lost types will need to be 
replaced - is inaccurate, and those of us serving on the ICZN 
(International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature) feel that it is 
essential to provide accurate information to counteract some of these 
well-intentioned but slightly misleading comments. Our aim is not to 
dismiss the concerns of those who are worried about the consequences of 
losing so many type specimens, but to reassure people that only a 
*fraction* of those lost types actually require replacement, in no small 
part due to the commendable foresight of curators and researchers who 
recorded digital images of many of those types.

Accordingly, I and a number of other Commissioners have drafted an 
advisory document outlining what the ICZN Code actually says regarding 
the replacement of lost types, emphasizing that the situation 
surrounding each individual type must be taken into account, and *only 
in exceptional cases* is it possible to designate a replacement 
(neotype); doing so requires very explicit justification and 
documentation. It is entirely likely that only a small fraction of the 
holotypes that have been lost will fulfill the necessary criteria, thus 
greatly reducing the burden on the taxonomic community. The task will 
not be easy, but it will not be as comprehensive or labor-intensive as 
many have assumed.

For those of you who have an interest in this matter, please see

There are, inevitably, parts of the Code that can be easily overlooked, 
easily misinterpreted, or fairly subjective. The purpose of this 
particular document is to serve for clarification and as a practical 
guideline. It does not, in any way, supercede the "legislative" text of 
the Code itself, which is appended - unaltered - at the end of the 
document, and also available at in its entirety. We would 
urge people in particular to note the various provisions of Article 
75.3, especially 75.3.6 and 75.3.7.

Please do bear in mind that the rules concerning neotype designations 
are explicitly intended to ensure a measure of quality control over the 
process, and prevent abuses of the system; every one of these rules is 
in place for a good reason. Most of these rules have been unchanged (or 
even slightly relaxed) since at least the 1961 edition of the Code, if 
not earlier, and they have served the community well thus far.

If you read through the document and still are uncertain about anything, 
I and the other Commissioners are generally available to answer 
questions. We would certainly prefer to spend a little effort to address 
taxonomists' concerns *before* any types are replaced, rather than after.

PLEASE do pass this message on to colleagues who might benefit from this 
information, including other mailing lists or social media groups where 
this topic is of broad interest. This document may eventually be 
published, but broad dissemination of the information *now* will still 
be beneficial, especially given that publications have a much smaller 
reach than mailing lists and social media, and also given how quickly, 
and widely, inaccurate assumptions and claims have already been distributed.

Sincerely, Doug Yanega

Doug Yanega      Dept. of Entomology       Entomology Research Museum
Univ. of California, Riverside, CA 92521-0314     skype: dyanega
phone: (951) 827-4315 (disclaimer: opinions are mine, not UCR's)
   "There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness
         is the true method" - Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chap. 82