Paleonet: question about holotype specimens

Jere H. Lipps jlipps at berkeley.edu
Fri Aug 24 15:42:34 GMT 2007


At 07:47 AM 8/24/2007, you wrote:

>Not to add more to this interesting discussion, but I pulled out  my 
>treasured taxonomic procedures folder, inherited from Norm Sohl, and 
>came across Frizell's 1933 "Terminology of Types" published in the 
>American Midland Naturalist.  He lists many terms that aren't in 
>common usage today, but several seem applicable to Jozsef's problem.

Thanks for these comments.
I don't know why the rules and terminology are so interesting, but I 
really like figuring out these kinds of things, perhaps because of my 
training with Al and Helen Loeblich.   Al followed the rules 
precisely and Helen liked to think about the biology and 
implications.  Between them, I learned that the biology and 
interpretations mean little if we do not keep track of what we are 
considering.  But it is mostly a waste of time, and I used to think 
that if Al spent as much time interpreting his fossils as checking 
the rules, he would have written more interpretative papers like 
Helen did.  But rules and how they are applied can be fascinating.


>He defines Holotype I as "a single specimen (or fragment) upon which 
>a species is based.  See holaedoeotypus."
>Holaedoeotypus (a term I've never heard) is defined as "an 
>aedoeotypus, the preparation being made from the holotype of the 
>species." So if Jozsef's mould is not natural and if this term is 
>still used, it seems this is what he has.  (Any one else ever heard 
>of or used this term?)
>
>There's also plastotype - "an artificial specimen moulded directly 
>from a type".

All of these terms can be useful.  However, the Code does not 
recognize all of them, so we have to be clear that some terms have 
significance according to the Code and others do not.   Unfortunately 
usually they both end in  "-type" which seems to imply significance 
nomenclatorially.


>All these terms aside, I agree it's a rather unique situation and 
>the most important point would be clarity for future workers.  I 
>think a key question is to establish whether the original author 
>knew of, and used the mould in the course of describing the species.

It is unique, but the Code was set up chiefly to deal with the 
unusual cases.  Most of us who describe species do not run into 
conflict with the Code and our stuff is clear.   Again, it's like the 
Motor Vehicle Code.  We don't think much about it when we drive 
because the rules are embedded in us by training.  We only pull out 
the MVC when we get a ticket or have an accident.

The key to whether or not the mould is part of the holotype is 
whether or not the original author said it was.   The key to the 
biology of this situation is all of the specimens that bear on 
it.   These may or may not be in museums or designated officially as 
types.  Often we get our best interpretations from later studies on 
completely new sets of specimens.

Jere 
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