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New Capito barbet (1 Viewer)

I was struck by this para in the SACC proposal & debate on the Grallaria sp in Columbia (linked from RK's thread):

.."Whether failure to deposit a proper type specimen invalidates a new name is somewhat ambiguous in the current wording of the Code (Polaszek et al. 2005, Dubois & Nemésio 2007). It could be argued that Article 16.4.2 only applies to descriptions in which types are extant specimens. Under this view, the Code is open to the possibility of descriptions based on indirect evidence in the absence any extant specimen. In such cases, no deposited specimens would be required. Specifically, this is the case with names based on illustrations, which are valid regardless of whether the specimen illustrated currently exist or not (articles 72.5.6 and 73.1.4). This exception validates many 19th century names that were based upon paintings of unknown individual birds. Some have argued that the same reasoning could be applied to new descriptions based on photographs only (Wakeham-Dawson & Morris 2002, Polaszek et al. 2005) despite the fact that the Code emphasizes in many articles and recommendations the crucial role that type specimens play in modern taxonomy (Articles 16.4.2, 72.10, Recommendation 16C, Dubois & Nemésio 2007, Nemésio 2008)."

Assuming this interpretation to be correct (and if the ICZN codes holds in its current form), it struck me that deposited type specimens are a modern "nice to have" but are NOT a prerequisite for naming. since an old painting can be designated as a type. Specimens are collected because they can be, NOT because it is ESSENTIAL to the naming process. Or have I missed something?

cheers, alan
 
...it struck me that deposited type specimens are a modern "nice to have" but are NOT a prerequisite for naming. since an old painting can be designated as a type. Specimens are collected because they can be, NOT because it is ESSENTIAL to the naming process. Or have I missed something?
Alan, surely it's unsurprising that the Code as applicable in the 21st century (4th edition, 1999) recommends higher standards of description of new zoological taxa compared to the practices of much earlier eras.
 
Alan, surely it's unsurprising that the Code as applicable in the 21st century (4th edition, 1999) recommends higher standards of description of new zoological taxa compared to the practices of much earlier eras.

Isn't consistency an important principle? If it is possible to name an old painting as a type then surely a new photograph is equally admissible. The fact that it is physically possible to obtain a specimen does not mean that the name is "any more valid".

Imagine this (unlikely!) scenario: I photograph and tape record a very distinctive new species. I designate the photo as the type. The name is valid. Some taxonomists would complain about the absence of a specimen....

But... what if the small patch of forest in which I found this rare endemic was cleared shortly afterwards and the new species became extinct shortly after I found it. The name is still valid. Does the inability to collect a specimen of the newly extinct species undermine the validity of the type designation or the acceptance of the species in these changed circumstances?

cheers, alan
 
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Isn't consistency an important principle?...
It's surely in everyone's interests to provide the most complete description possible given the particular circumstances - which may indeed preclude collecting specimens (eg, in the case of a taxon where collection would impact the viability of a population).

If you believe that consistency throughout history is the most important principle, then presumably the Code should just be a lowest common denominator, perhaps requiring that discoverers of new taxa do no more than propose a name accompanied by a (not necessarily lifelike) sketch or painting. [But note that most taxa originally named in historical paintings are now represented by specimens collected subsequently.]
 
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I apologize if this has already been mentioned but, surely, there is little complete about the specimens from which the many fossilized species are being described. The scope of the ICZN code specifically includes fossils (Article 1.2.1). Same rules apply as with extant forms. I hope the ICZN doesn't try form subcategories with different rules.

Sally Conyne
 
With fossil taxa you have a specimen, even if it is fragmentary. If there are unique apomorphies preserved within the specimen, there some be no problem describing it and producing a diagnosis. Obviously sometimes something is described which is later determined to have characteristics which are not usable beyond the family or genus label, in which later worker then usually label the fossil as nomen dubium.

Obviously things such as the recent Fenwick's/Urrao Antpitta are in the Gray area. The preserved material is not diagnostic to species level, but on the other hand you have photos and vocalizations recorded which are.
 
"Obviously things such as the recent Fenwick's/Urrao Antpitta are in the Gray area. The preserved material is not diagnostic to species level .."

Are you sure? The SACC/urraoensis team seem to be asserting that, but it is not clear that anyone has yet directly compared the feathers to fenwickorum and milleri specimens. Lots of birds have brown feathers for sure, but the lighter-remiged primary at least of fenwickorum (or urraoensis) seems quite different from that of milleri, as is the breast and overall mantle/tail coloration. All of these features should in theory be capable of being elucidated from the feather collection illustrated in the fenwickorum description. I don't know if anyone has tried extracting DNA from the feathers, but that could also allow identification.
 
"Obviously things such as the recent Fenwick's/Urrao Antpitta are in the Gray area. The preserved material is not diagnostic to species level .."

Are you sure? The SACC/urraoensis team seem to be asserting that, but it is not clear that anyone has yet directly compared the feathers to fenwickorum and milleri specimens. Lots of birds have brown feathers for sure, but the lighter-remiged primary at least of fenwickorum (or urraoensis) seems quite different from that of milleri, as is the breast and overall mantle/tail coloration. All of these features should in theory be capable of being elucidated from the feather collection illustrated in the fenwickorum description. I don't know if anyone has tried extracting DNA from the feathers, but that could also allow identification.

I'm not sure this is the central point in that debate. The first question is "what is the type?" Is it the painting or is it the feathers? It seems to be the former and so the feathers are, in respect of this question at least, irrelevant (at least as the urraoensis team argue). As much as I am pursuaded by the urraoensis teams arguments, my view is that the painting alone is sufficient (under current rules) for a type and that fenwickorum should stand. That doesn't mean I support the approach of either team.

cheers, alan
 
obviously I haven't looked at the feathers, although perhaps it would strengthen the case if someone did and could state "These feathers are not diagnostic" Of course analysis of DNA is possible, but I have always heard that feathers are a poor choice, and how many of them would you have to destructively sample to do so?
 
I rather suspect that the many new Herpsilochmus species in South America will require specimens to quantify the small morphological characters which distinguish them from other closely related species. Ironically however the best features for identifying them is song - and birds in trays aren't much good at that...



Alan,

I have no problem with the non-collection of the liocichla, although ultimately if a larger population is discovered, a specimen would be desirable, in my opinion.

As for the Herpsilochmus. It is true that their songs are potentially of most import, but if you go back but recently to the description of Herpsilochmus sellowi and its differentiation from H. pileatus, vocals were key to discovering that a cryptic species was involved, but specimens (already extant as it happened) were still highly necessary to elucidating the complete story.
 
If you believe that consistency throughout history is the most important principle, then presumably the Code should just be a lowest common denominator, perhaps requiring that discoverers of new taxa do no more than propose a name accompanied by a (not necessarily lifelike) sketch or painting. ]

I quite like that idea! We'd get the name much quicker and it might give humble amateurs - who could be the true finders - a chance at naming rather than an elite band of professional museum workers (of course in many cases they are the finders!). In the extremely unlikely event I ever found a new taxon, I'd never have the time to produce a comprehensive description along with the requisite review of all related taxa.

Those Cisticolas in Tanzania - well that's just daft! Give them a name someone please...

cheers, alan
 
I'm not sure this is the central point in that debate. The first question is "what is the type?" Is it the painting or is it the feathers? It seems to be the former and so the feathers are, in respect of this question at least, irrelevant (at least as the urraoensis team argue). As much as I am pursuaded by the urraoensis teams arguments, my view is that the painting alone is sufficient (under current rules) for a type and that fenwickorum should stand. That doesn't mean I support the approach of either team.

cheers, alan

The Code is clear on this point "73.1.4. Designation of an illustration of a single specimen as a holotype is to be treated as designation of the specimen illustrated; the fact that the specimen no longer exists or cannot be traced does not of itself invalidate the designation." The original description is confusing in that it seems to designate both the feathers and the illustrated individual as holotypes, but there is no argument under that code that the illustration itself is a type.
 
If you read the holotype designation section of fenwickorum (and the corrigendum to correct a typo of "74.1.4"), it's the samples that are the holotype, and, to the extent that 73.1.4 applies, the individual illustrated in the paper (and the various online photos).

Some people argue that 73.1.4 should be ignored and can never apply post-1999 because of the requirements of 16.4 to deposit a specimen of an extant type (e.g. Dubois & Nemesio 2007 in Zootaxa; and now also the SACC). The ICZN does not agree with those views (see Polaszek et al 2005 in Science, where this issue was dealt with specifically; and also Wakeham-Dawson's paper in ICZN's Bulletin on nomenclature in 2002; as well as the ICZN's own FAQs) so it's not clear what weight should be placed on these views.

As I read it, the fenwickorum description is intended to work under both these two differing interpretations of the Code. If 73.1.4 is trumped by 16.4 and no illustrated individual can ever be a type since 1999, then the authors designated only the samples as the type. If the ICZN's preferred interpretation is right then the illustrated individual is also included within the fenwickorum type, not just the feathers. I think that the latter must be the more sensible interpretation, because otherwise 73.1.4 is totally meaningless (except as a historical provision about old descriptions) - and there is more complete information about the type specimen if the illustrated individual is included in these sorts of circumstances. The designation of the holotype of Conopholus marthae (an iguana) used somewhat similar language, designating both the samples and the illustrated individual. Some of the older descriptions out there, before the Dubois & Nemesio paper, refer to samples but only designate the illustrated individual as a type (e.g. the Liocichla). In many respects, the fenwickorum description is strong in terms of its holotype designation language for a description of this sort (typos aside), in that it should work under multiple differing interpretations of the Code.

Disclaimers as before, what a ludicrous situation with these two descriptions, don't think anyone is right, commentary above only a view on nomenclature, blah blah blah.
 
After rereading the description I see what I missed is that the feathers are from the illustrated individual. I think it still would have been clearer to simply designate the feathers as the type - the Code explicitly recognizes that "part of an animal" can be a valid type (17.3), and there would be no need to interpret 73.1.4.
 
In Chile we have a Scytalopus that is visually different from S. magellanicus, ecologically different yet sings nearly the same song. I am not sure if any specimen exist of the thing, but having a series and tissue would go a long way to figuring out what we have there - new taxon at some level. So some aspects of Scytalopus taxonomy certainly DO gain valuable information from specimens.
Also the Birds of Chile field guide - none of that would have been possible without ample collections (most historical) in major museum, in particular the Field Museum in Chicago and American Museum in New York. Also there were many instances where we wished there were more specimens to figure out what was going on in terms of geographic variation or field identification. Very few new specimens are being collected in Chile, we had one of the major local collections destroyed entirely but a huge fire (Universidad Austral) and there are many questions that can't be adequately resolved given the available specimens in museums currently of Chilean birds. Almost all of these open questions involve reasonably common birds, no issues of conservation concern - so from a scientific perspective: Why should we not encourage the taking of specimens to resolve open questions? Or at least why would we want to put up barriers to the taking of these specimens (which by the way no one is going to do - at least not that I can see so this is all entirely hypothetical) in order to gain understanding of Chile's birds?
 
Seeholzer et al

A Cornell University team discovered a new taxon of Capito barbet on the isolated Cerros de Sira in central Peru in 2009. Clearly has affinities with C. wallacei, but quite different.
Read it here: http://www.allaboutbirds.org/netcommunity/page.aspx?pid=1788#top.
photo here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/42595788@N00/4520551671/in/photostream/
Seeholzer, Winger, Harvey, Cáceres & Weckstein (in press). A new species of barbet (Capitonidae: Capito) from the Cerros del Sira, Ucayali, Peru. Auk. [abstract]

Hopefully someone with access can reveal the name...
 
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