Taxonomic Swap 41393 (Committed on 10-26-2018)

M. americana was swapped for M. americanum previously, but BugGuide, Moth Photographers Goup, and Pohl et al (2018) all list as M. americana, so swapping back to this spelling

Moth Photographers Group - Taxonomy (Citation)
Added by mikeburrell on October 26, 2018 06:32 PM | Committed by mikeburrell on October 26, 2018
replaced with


There is a rule: The ending of a species name must follow the gender of the genus name.
To know, which is the gender, is difficult if you don't know latin. It's easier to check what is the usage with the species names within a genus.

Many species names are Latin adjectives, and these end either

us / -a / -um OR -r / -ra / -rum (masc. / fem. / neuter), and IF you know a species name is an adjective, it is easy to know what the genus' gender is.

There can be other endings, as genetives (often: -is), or nominative nouns (e.g. if given the name of a person, thing, etc.) An example for the latter is in genus Malacosoma: species M. neustria was named after the historic kingdom Neustria. If we did not know that, and took neustria for an adjective, the genus name would need to be feminine.
But: It is not. To detect this, Greek is to be consulted:
σῶμα • (sôma) n (genitive σώματος) = body
So, -soma and all combinations with it are : neuter (Malacosoma = soft body)
and adjectivic species names need to end -UM (!)

This source gots it right:
"the parallel one" = parallelum
"the american one" = americanum
"the incurved one" = incurvum
"the first one" = primum

M. castrense seems not to fit the rule, but it does:
castra (“camp”) + ‎-ensis → ‎castrēnsis (“of the camp”) a genetivic adjective, ends -is for masc./fem., but -e in neuter.
The names tigris (Tiger) and disstria are simple nouns that escape flexation, and laurae is a simple genetive (= of Laura, prob. the girlfriend of the species' author)

Difficult? - that's why you find many errors in sources!

Posted by borisb over 5 years ago

I assume it was at americana in those sources intentionally, irrespective of the appropriate Latin per ICZN, per the common rule used by lepidopterists to maintain the original spelling even when the genus and genus-gender change.[1][2][3]

e.g. "All species-level epithets in the list follow original orthography; they are not changed to match the gender of the current valid genus "

This question about what we should do on iNaturalist has been raised before.[4]

cc: @hkmoths @nlblock @maractwin @treichard

Posted by bouteloua over 5 years ago

Doing multiple taxon swaps back and forth can be really disruptive, so maybe hold off for now? Ideally the site staff can just change the name directly instead of requiring taxon swaps...

Posted by bouteloua over 5 years ago

I haven't followed insect taxonomy too closely. I know that with fish, the practice is not to change endings until someone next publishes a paper with a revision or review of the genus or family. So there are species where the specific ending doesn't match the genus, but we continue using it that way if there hasn't been a revision published yet. This way, there is always a reference that can be pointed to for the current name.

Since iNat doesn't follow the primary science, instead following external authorities, shouldn't we just do what bugguide does in this case?

Posted by maractwin over 5 years ago

Some iNat curators can also edit BugGuide, so it's kind of a strange case of authorities as far as "deference." At the time of the swap, it read americana on BugGuide, but now it has been changed to americanum.

Posted by bouteloua over 5 years ago

I have read the discussion @bouteloua has linked, and I agree with Patrick Alexander: The "exception from the rule" some Lepidopterologists claim, is nonexistent.
Either the species name is a noun in apposition, or it is not. Nouns must not be changed. We have an example in Malacosoma (neustria), of which you can also find the spelling "neustrium" - wrong spelling in this case , because "neustria" has a grammatic gender of its own.

I have done the changes in BugGuide yesterday, in accordance with a generic revision, first literature citation for Malacosoma in BugGuide, and steady reference on it.
Who does not accept the name changes, has to reject this piece of science, too.

I have found a similar case in Darkling Beetles: Genus Eleodes, found to be of feminine gender, but with several masculine species names in it. In case of Eleodes, the need for name changes was mentioned on the info page, but nobody has done the work (I did now, today).

Posted by borisb over 5 years ago

I know that Lepidopterologists do not care for generic combinations much. They, in conversation, often use the species epithetons only, and leave away the generic name.
There are, in Lepidoptera, not as many homonymic species epithetons than usually found, otherwise such usage would end in confusion.
In Coloeptera, we have an "ater", "oblongus", "linearis" in one genus of five . . .

Posted by borisb over 5 years ago

A question raised in my mind: Do Lepidopterologists, consequently, also suspend the law of priority, when two different original spellings come together in a merging of genera?
If Genus_A and Genus_B were united, and Genus_A erectum and Genus_B erecta find together in ONE genus - are both conserved, and no more homonyms, of which the junior one needs to be replaced?

Posted by borisb over 5 years ago

Personal statement: I did not know about the deviant position towards the requirements of the ICZN among Lepidopterologists, when I did the changes yesterday. I thought the wrong spellins were just product of a lapsus, because species were originally described in genera of feminine gender (Bombyx, Clisiocampa), and just did not sound funny in combination with Malacosoma (appearing feminine, too).
If I HAD known, I would have kept my hands quiet. I do not want to interfere in Butterfly affairs, and it is not my business finding a consensus in such.

I have read the lengthy article @bouteloua linked above ([2]). I understand the arguments pointing on inconvenience of this, or that kind. The rule is in power since 1905, and it is stated that "the application of the gender agreement rule would have posed significantly fewer problems had such recommendations been followed ever since". They were often not, because of neglect, or incompetence, the text admits.

On page 199, we read: "The articles of the code are not enforceable under International Law and the provisions of the code are not enforceable against any taxonomist or author" and there is no court, or "police action" taken by the ICZN to rule violations.

These statements are true, but somewhat outrageous . . .

Posted by borisb over 5 years ago

Yeah...I usually steer clear of butterfly affairs because of this too. :) I just wanted to point it out and hopefully prevent taxon swaps going back and forth in quick succession. :\

Posted by bouteloua over 5 years ago

two sides of the taxonomic coin :)
I totally get the ICZN "rules" regarding gender agreement (inclusive of the various defined options such as nouns in apposition, patronyms and plenty more). But this is a problem for me in logical terms..... the Code is supposed to provide nomenclatural stability, yet how can one call a species epithet a stable name if it has to agree in gender with the genus epithet, rather than be consistently spelt as intended by the describer?
For the very few taxonomists who get, and use, this issue it is no big deal (probably), but for the rest of us, the end users, who outnumber the taxonomists many times, the matter is at best a pain. Every time a species gets shunted into a different genus (with opposite gender) then the name is changed to agree with the gender. All the resulting publications get changed too, not just the combination but the species epithet. How is this stable??? Then there is the issue of database stability and updating.. One can see why more and more people are frustrated by the rigidity of the Code on this issue. There is sense in maintaining the original spelling, irrespective of the gender of the current genus placement.
One must question how the functionality of a name, in terms of overal nomenclatural stability, is impeded by the rigidity of the Code.

As to how this is implemented on iNat. . .
Perhaps the Admins should provide a clear statement about functionality of the Code and how that impacts upon end users (not just the Admins and Curators, but all users from amateur enthusiasts to teachers and school kids). I would welcome some guidance here.

Perhaps some feedback to ICZN people to let them know how endusers of taxonomic issues see how this issue impacts them. Doug Yanaga is contactable via Facebook - I can relay this discussion if necessary.

Posted by hkmoths over 5 years ago

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