• Confronting taxonomic vandalism in biology: conscientious community self-organization can preserve nomenclatural stability

      Wüster, Wolfgang; Thomson, Scott A; O'Shea, Mark; Kaiser, Hinrich (Oxford University Press, 2021-04-20)
      Self-published taxon descriptions, bereft of a basis of evidence, are a long-standing problem in taxonomy. The problem derives in part from the Principle of Priority in the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature, which forces the use of the oldest available nomen irrespective of scientific merit. This provides a route to ‘immortality’ for unscrupulous individuals through the mass-naming of taxa without scientific basis, a phenomenon referred to as taxonomic vandalism. Following a flood of unscientific taxon namings, in 2013 a group of concerned herpetologists organized a widely supported, community-based campaign to treat these nomina as lying outside the permanent scientific record, and to ignore and overwrite them as appropriate. Here, we review the impact of these proposals over the past 8 years. We identified 59 instances of unscientific names being set aside and overwritten with science-based names (here termed aspidonyms), and 1087 uses of these aspidonyms, compared to one instance of preference for the overwritten names. This shows that when there is widespread consultation and agreement across affected research communities, setting aside certain provisions of the Code can constitute an effective last resort defence against taxonomic vandalism and enhance the universality and stability of the scientific nomenclature.
    • Endemic, endangered, and evolutionarily significant: Cryptic lineages in Seychelles’ frogs (Anura: Sooglossidae)

      Labisko, Jim; Griffiths, Richard A.; Chong-Seng, Lindsay; Bunbury, Nancy; Maddock, Simon T; Bradfield, Kay S.; Taylor, Michelle L. (Oxford University Press, 2019-01-12)
      Cryptic diversity corresponding with island of origin has been previously reported in the endemic, geographically restricted sooglossid frogs of the Seychelles archipelago. The evolutionary pattern behind this has not been fully explored, and given current amphibian declines and the increased extinction risk faced by island species, we sought to identify evolutionarily significant units (ESUs) to address conservation concerns for these highly threatened anurans. We obtained genetic data for two mitochondrial (mtDNA) and four nuclear (nuDNA) genes from all known populations of sooglossid frog (on the islands of Mahé, Praslin and Silhouette) for phylogenetic analyses and to construct nuDNA haplotype networks. Bayesian and maximum likelihood analyses of mtDNA support the monophyly and molecular differentiation of populations in all species that occur on multiple islands. Haplotype networks using statistical parsimony revealed multiple high-frequency haplotypes shared between islands and taxa, in addition to numerous geographically distinct (island-specific) haplotypes for each species. We consider each island-specific population of sooglossid frog as an ESU and advise conservation managers to do likewise. Furthermore, our results identify each island lineage as a candidate species, evidence for which is supported by analyses of mtDNA based on Bayesian Poisson tree processes, and independent analyses of mtDNA and nuDNA using the multispecies coalescent. Our findings add to the growing understanding of the biogeography and hidden diversity within this globally important region.