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Words of Wisdom

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PostPosted: 01.08.2009, 09:39    Post subject: Words of Wisdom Reply with quote

This was submitted by Harry Lee on the Conch-L

Dear Listers who care about minutiae of taxonomic nomenclature and "allied cowries,"

I have just had the pleasure of going through the newly published book:

Lorenz, F. and D. Fehse, 2009. The living Ovulidae A manual of the families of allied cowries: Ovulidae, Pediculariidae and Eocypraeidae. ConchBooks, Hackenheim, Germany. Pp (1)- 651 incl. 203 full-page color plates and hundreds of large-format color vignettes.

This is a well-researched and lavishly (in the most complimentary sense of the word) illustrated monograph, and it extends our knowledge of this fauna approximately an order of magnitude from the fine standard established by Cate (1973).

I'm sure it will receive favorable reviews in the formal literature, but I want to focus on a very small aspect of the taxonomic and nomenclatorial methods employed by the authors.

This rant has to do with the genus Cyphoma Röding, 1798 (Type species given by Lorenz and Fehse (L&F) as Bulla gibbosa Linnaeus, 1758). I see that Wenz (1941: 1041), Cate (1 66), and Millard (2008: 252) indicate that the that the type designation is based on monotypy, but that is not correct as there were two species mentioned in the original description: Cyphoma gibbosa [sic] and C. dorsata [sic] (Röding,1798: 21). This kind of oversight has been mentioned in our forum more than once before, and it probably reflects a combination of (1) unfamiliarity with Röding's work and (2) a tendency to place reliance on the scholarship of predecessors instead of "repeating" the bibliographic legwork. Well, this time it turned out OK, at least I think it did, as I found that a designation of Bulla gibbosa as the type of Cyphoma was made by H. and A. Adams (1853: 271). It would have been very considerate (and quite appropriate) for L&F to point this out.

The other nit to pick relates to the "[sic]" above. Röding consistently treated his new generic epithet as a feminine noun. Well, that would seem appropriate for a Latin word ending in "a," but my Greek dictionary indicates that the noun "kyphoma" is Greek (meaning "hump" and reflected in "kyphosis" in English) - and it's gender is neuter. That's the logic that apparently impelled authors of virtually all popular books (more likely, as noted above, the predecessors whom they simply aped) to employ the binomen Cyphoma gibbosum [the "-um" termination making the Latin species-group epithet "gibbosus, -a, -um" agree in gender with its genus]. So what about Röding, shouldn't his implicit use of Cyphoma as feminine count for something? Maybe that was the thinking of L&F. However, Article 30.1.2 of The Code (ICZN, 1999) states "a genus-group name that is or ends in a Greek word transliterated into Latin without other changes takes the gender given for that word in standard Greek dictionaries." There are certain exceptions iterated in the remainder of Article 30, but none allows Röding's usage to trump the quoted mandate.

L&F's action resulted in gender changes for four congeners of C. gibbosum as well. My advice, and I'm open to correction, is sheath pour pens and leave the terminations as they have been - neuter.

One more minor miff: Why are ovulids known as "allied Cowries" in the vernacular; why not "cowrie allies?"


Adams, H. and A. Adams, 1853-1858.The genera of Recent Mollusca arranged according to their organization John van Voorst, London. [published in 35 parts] vol 1: xl+ 1-484; vol. 2: pp. 1- 661 [incl. account of publication dates for vols. 1 and 2 on p. 661]; vol. 3: (i) + 138 pls.
Cate, C. N., 1973. A systematic revision of the Recent cypraeid family Ovulidae (Mollusca: Gastropoda). The Veliger 15 suppl.: iv + 1-116 + 51 pls. Jan. 31.
[ICZN] International Commission for Zoological Nomenclature, 1999. International Code of zoological nomenclature fourth edition. pp. 1-306 + i-xxix.
Millard, V., 2008. Classification of Mollusca. A classification of worldwide Mollusca volume 1. Millard, Clareinch, South Africa. (i-iii) + 1-1026.
Wenz, W., 1938- 944. Handbuch der Paläzoologie, herausgegeben von O.H. Schindewolf. Band 6. Gastropoda Teil 1: Allgemeiner Teil und Prosobranchia 1-1639 + xii + 1-9:
Teil 1 1-240 March, 1938
Teil 2 241-480 October, 1938
Teil 3 481-720 July, 1939
Teil 4 721-960 August, 1940
Teil 5 961-1200 October, 1941
Teil 6 1201-1506 October, 1943
Teil 7 1507-1639 + i-xii (the latter, of course, contained the chronology) November, 1944. Date(s) for 9 pp. of corrigenda appearing at the end of the work not given.
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