5 New Metriaclima Species

New cichlid species and taxonomy
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Willem Heijns
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Re: 5 New Metriaclima Species

Post by Willem Heijns » Thu May 09, 2013 4:09 am

I would call the sentence "some species of Pseudotropheus s.l. look like Ps. greshakei" a comparison between "some species" (supposedly your "zebra group") and Ps. greshakei, albeit a vague one (and nomenclaturally irrelevant).
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Re: 5 New Metriaclima Species

Post by Philippe Burnel » Thu May 09, 2013 4:16 am

That's not a comparision !!!
It shows that some sp have the same characters as Ps greshakei and that the characters are given later. So these characters are a diganosis for the zebra group in which greshakei is included.
All other interpretation of the french text will be of bad faith.

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Re: 5 New Metriaclima Species

Post by Willem Heijns » Thu May 09, 2013 4:35 am

Philippe:
If I translate the sentence into English (and Dutch for that matter) I get the very same interpretation. It's a very simple sentence. If you start talking about "bad faith", you go exactly into the direction where this whole issue has derailed earlier. I wish you could stay with the subject. If not, I'm out of here.
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Re: 5 New Metriaclima Species

Post by Philippe Burnel » Thu May 09, 2013 4:47 am

Willem, I don't read any comparision in the FRENCH text.
I read, in the whole text that greshakei belongs to a group of spp and i NEVER read that it differs from this group.
NEVER it's written that greshakei doesn't belong to the group.
Everywhere it's written that it shares characters with the group.
That's the meaning of the text. No more, no less !

Anyway, as it is for many years now, nobody will change its point of view. :(
Not really surprising anyway.
So, for me it's the end of this discussion.

Anybody want to know the story of acacia trees ? When the botanical comission pass over the rules ?

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Re: 5 New Metriaclima Species

Post by Mark Smith » Thu May 09, 2013 9:00 am

Is it possible for the author of genus name Maylandia to revise his description so as to abundantly clear up the confusion due to a less than stellar original description? If so, then why hasn't it been done yet?

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Re: 5 New Metriaclima Species

Post by adkonings » Thu May 09, 2013 10:52 am

Philippe Burnel wrote: So others say that the diagnosis is made for the zebra group, not for Maylandia. It is clear in the text that greshakei and "zebra group" share the same caracters and belong to the same "group/sub-genus" which is confirmed by the next sentence :
"we suggest that the zebra complex must be included in the sub-genus Maylandia"

So there is a diagnosis for a group of species in which is included Ps gresnakei designated as type species for the group raised to the rank of sub-genus.

Of course the diagnosis is not perfect and the diagnosis made later for Metriaclima are better but it's not important.
The priority rule makes Maylandia the name to be used.
Philippe and others reading this,

Please allow me to explain some of the problems that we face describing animals. Before I get to the crucial point I would like to give you a small example from the plant world (since Philippe talked about Acacia). I know a little bit about cactus and although I have not done any taxonomic or nomenclatorial work on them, I was amazed by the multitude of synonyms produced in the plant world. I would like to give an example to make the case clear. The prickly pears of the genus Opuntia look all the same to someone unfamiliar with these plants, but the top botanists have agreed that worldwide there are exactly 70 species (Hunt et al. Eds. The New Cactus Lexicon). But these people are no specialists of this genus; specialists estimate that there are at least 150 different species. Now the interesting part: over the years for these 70-150 prickly pears 1550 names have been scientifically described! How is it possible that so many synonyms could be produced? I think the main reason is the Code for Botanic Nomenclature. There is one fundamental difference between the zoological Code and those set up for plants, but before I get to it, hang on please, I first would like to give another anecdote. Mark Smith, who is a friend of mine and whose work I do respect, maintains that Otopharynx walteri is a good species. Did he make morphological comparisons with Otopharynx lithobates to substantiate his claims? I doubt it. He eye-balled the fish and, of course using his vast knowledge of cichlids, declares that O. walteri is different from O. lithobates. It may surprise you, but I think he is right. I also think O. walteri is a different species, however, there is a system in place that must be followed to be able to declare a population of fish as being a new species.
Eye-balling is allowed in the plant world. You can list a number of descriptive characters for your new plant species and your description is valid—and have others deal with further problems. When you want to describe an animal things are different and in fact the word “description” is a misnomer. It should be called “diagnosing” a new species. Because of one rule in the zoological Code, I’ll get to it soon, there are far less synonyms produced in this field. There are far less synonyms than valid names for cichlids, and this appears to be true for all sections of the animal kingdom.
OK, what is that rule? I will copy here what the code says but you should check it out for yourself at http://www.nhm.ac.uk/hosted-sites/iczn/code/ then go to chapter 4 (Criteria for availability) and then to Article 11 (Requirements) and then to Article 13 (Names published after 1930). The crucial rule is Article 13.1.1 and is as follows:
13.1. Requirements. To be available, every new name published after 1930 must satisfy the provisions of Article 11 and must
13.1.1. be accompanied by a description or definition that states in words characters that are purported to differentiate the taxon,
----
There is more to it and even recommendations given but they are irrelevant for our discussion at the moment; but if you want to add to this discussion I would strongly recommend reading the Code.

So what does this requirement mean? I have not examined this rule in French or German but of course it must have the same meaning. The meaning is that a new name for your fish/taxon is only valid when it complies with this (and other) requirements. So, somewhere in the “description” you have to DIFFERENTIATE your new taxon by mentioning in what characters your new taxon DIFFERS from what you think are its closest relatives. The fact that these characters are useful and/or correct, or whether the new taxon is compared with a totally unrelated entity or with a true close relative is not a requirement and should not invalidate your new name. The code recommends to differentiate in the form of a diagnosis, because that is actually what you are doing, but the mentioning of the word “diagnosis” is not a requirement.
This 13.1.1. requirement has, unfortunately, been ignored by quite a few cichlid fish describers. Correcting such work always causes animosity; apparently one is not allowed to criticize/correct mistakes. I think that is the wrong attitude. We want to get forward and name/catalogue as many organisms before they become extinct, and we have to do that in a scientifically-sound way, i.e. applying the Code.
Example: when Johnson described Labidochromis joanjohnsonae, he did exactly that: he gave a few measurements (description) but failed to diagnose the species, i.e. he did not compare it with any other entity. The result is that his name is not valid and not available for use. If it would have been a plant he would have produced a valid name.

So now we are finally coming to Maylandia and I’m glad you hung on thus far, because the crux of the matter is “Did Meyer & Foerster diagnose their suggested new subgenus”? In other words was their new name accompanied by a description or definition that states in words characters that are purported to differentiate the taxon (requirement 13.1.1)?
I agree with Philippe that M&F stated that Maylandia differs from Pseudotropheus, but that is kind of logic; what else would be the purpose of describing a new name? But nowhere in the their text do I find “Maylandia differs or is distinguished from Pseudotropheus by the following characters x, y, z.”
Philippe you just claim it does, but can you please help us and point to the sentence that mentions the words which translate into “differ or distinguished from” with a list of characters and with the subject Maylandia, which would actually diagnose the subgenus Maylandia? We are talking about a subgenus here not a species, not a group of species, and most importantly, DIFFERENTIATING characters. Not just a list of characters, the Code needs a statement in words with differentiating characters.

Philippe, when I look in my French dictionary the French word “soit” never appears to translate to “must”. For “must” they give “doit”. So your English translation of “Nous suggérons que ce complexe de zebra soit inclus dans le sous-genre Maylandia.” to "We suggest that the zebra complex must be included in the sub-genus Maylandia" seems to be slanted in favor of your point of view. I think most people would translate that sentence to “We suggest that the zebra complex should be included in the sub-genus Maylandia”, but then again I’m not a French native. I did ask a French friend of mine here in El Paso—Jacques has no idea about cichlids and certainly not about our political confrontations—and he translated that sentence with “…should be included…”. If anybody on the forum feels this is not the correct translation, please let us know.

Now to my point: when somebody suggests that something should be included into something else, I think we all can agree that this somebody could actually live with the fact that it was not included. In other words Meyer & Foerster only suggest that the zebra complex be included in Maylandia, but the subgenus “stands” also without them. In more other words, the zebra complex is not implicit part of Maylandia.

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Re: 5 New Metriaclima Species

Post by Philippe Burnel » Thu May 09, 2013 11:41 am

:roll:

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Re: 5 New Metriaclima Species

Post by Juan Artigas » Thu May 09, 2013 11:55 am

Philippe Burnel wrote::roll:
Would that mean Philippe that you have no more arguments?
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Re: 5 New Metriaclima Species

Post by Philippe Burnel » Thu May 09, 2013 12:02 pm

no it just means what I said before : nobody will never change !

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Re: 5 New Metriaclima Species

Post by cichla » Thu May 09, 2013 2:09 pm

adkonings wrote:Comments?
There are some who believe that the 'description' of Maylandia fulfill the rules, and others who think it is a nomen nudum. Well, there is no such an 'approvement' by the 'committee'.
Mark Smith wrote:Is it possible for the author of genus name Maylandia to revise his description so as to abundantly clear up the confusion due to a less than stellar original description? If so, then why hasn't it been done yet?
Obviously, Meyer & Foerster (1984) were not familiar with the zoological systematics. However, it is much to late to correct (improve) their ambiguous phrases.

The genus is the ''only category beside species that is reflected in the species binomen; therefore, changes in genus category have higher impact than those in higher or intermediate categories and should be applied with care.'' Vences et al. (2013).

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Re: 5 New Metriaclima Species

Post by SergeS » Fri May 10, 2013 4:54 pm

I did not mean to start up this discussion again! For what it's worth: I'm not a proponent of Maylandia. Nor am I a proponent of Metriaclima, I simply don't have the proper background to add anything to this and will gladly use what is agreed upon by people who actually know what they're talking about :)

Having said that, as a hobbyist, I am very interested in the issue at hand. So I'll just sit back and watch the show :D

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Re: 5 New Metriaclima Species

Post by adkonings » Sat May 11, 2013 10:03 am

cichla wrote: There are some who believe that the 'description' of Maylandia fulfill the rules, and others who think it is a nomen nudum.
Dear Ingo,

The description of a species/genus is not valid because others say so (Condé & Géry (1999), Bill Eschmeyer (website)), it is also not invalid because I say so. A description is valid ONLY when it complies with the Code, and invalid when it does not. And it doesn't matter in what language it is written and what knowledge you need to have about that language. You have to see a description as a legal document, not as an understanding or belief. Our biggest handicap in this case is the fact that we know all the species involved and we all know what the authors wanted to achieve. The problem is, that is not validating a description. If we would replace all the species names with those of organisms we don't know nothing about, how would we then judge the description?
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Re: 5 New Metriaclima Species

Post by Bas Pels » Sun May 12, 2013 3:30 am

adkonings wrote: The description of a species/genus is not valid because others say so (Condé & Géry (1999), Bill Eschmeyer (website)), it is also not invalid because I say so. A description is valid ONLY when it complies with the Code, and invalid when it does not. And it doesn't matter in what language it is written and what knowledge you need to have about that language. You have to see a description as a legal document, not as an understanding or belief.
Not knowing anyhthing about the fishes involved, or the Code, I still would like to point out that an article, any article, is nothing more then a set of black marks on paper.

Reading it, that is, interpreting the marks into words, the paper gets a meaning - the meaning the author gave it.

Therefore, each and everyone who reads a description - and knows the code - will have to ask him or herself 'does this description fullfill the Code?'. My guess is, quite often someone will say 'yes, but barely' while another will conclude 'unfortunately, it's not enough'.

The interpretation is just different when one wonders 'is the name valid?' from when one wonders 'Is it really a new species / genus?'

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Re: 5 New Metriaclima Species

Post by cichla » Sun May 12, 2013 4:33 am

Dear Ad, dear all,
I agree that we have to read/treat a 'description' as a technical document, not as a philosophical essay or as a poetic composition. Nevertheless I think that only native speaker get the complete 'picture' of a text.
Following the posts above it seems that Maylandia has a type species, and that there are indications how Maylandia differentiate. Well, the paper by Meyer & Foerster (1984) is (and this is indisputable) somewhat 'dubious'. However, according to Combe & Gery (1999) it does not mean that Maylandia is unavailable. I think, the main source for such kind of debates are the ''taxonomically weak'' papers (like the “description” of Maylandia).
I do not know who is right or wrong (Maylandia vs Metriaclima) :? . However, in case of doubt, I am following Eschmeyer's website.
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Re: 5 New Metriaclima Species

Post by Mark Smith » Sun May 12, 2013 11:10 am

For those who think that the genus decription for Maylandia is correct, I am wondering just how vague can a description be before it is considered invalid. For example, could I publish an article in, say Buntbarsche Bulletin of the ACA, and describe a new Lake Malawi cichlid by only saying: "Maylandia azureus, blue cichlid with vertical barring". Would the name I give it stand with such a simple, weak description?

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Re: 5 New Metriaclima Species

Post by cichla » Sun May 12, 2013 11:34 am

Mark Smith wrote:"Maylandia azureus, blue cichlid with vertical barring". Would the name I give it stand with such a simple, weak description?
No, such a 'description' would not fulfill the requirements of the code. There is no comparative note. However, (funny enough) if you would write 'the new species Maylandia azureus differs from the remaining species by a particular colour' then it would fulfill the requirements. Since 2000 it is, however, necessary to designate a type or type specimens.

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Re: 5 New Metriaclima Species

Post by Philippe Burnel » Sun May 12, 2013 1:43 pm

cichla wrote:Since 2000 it is, however, necessary to designate a type or type specimens.
It was not in the code before ?
This question because, for many years, the validty of the spp described by Brichard (1989 if I 'm correct) are questionable for me specialy because there are no type specimens.
So I was always suspicious.


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Re: 5 New Metriaclima Species

Post by cichla » Sun May 12, 2013 3:37 pm

Philippe Burnel wrote: It was not in the code before ? This question because, for many years, the validty of the spp described by Brichard (1989 if I 'm correct) are questionable for me specialy because there are no type specimens.
well, since 2000 it is mandatory to designate a type(s). Before 2000 it was a little bit tricky. Some articles of the code says there is a need to 'designate' a type. But other articles were not that strict. So, you may find cases (even before 2000) where the availability of a name without a type was doubted.

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Re: 5 New Metriaclima Species

Post by Juan Artigas » Sun May 12, 2013 11:20 pm

I see that beyond the discussion of the technical availability of the name Maylandia, there is likely a deeper subjective motivation; that of defending a publication (or a person) as if the name Maylandia has been minimized or stolen (or the person discredited) for political reasons. It is understandable but sad that a mere technical matter reflects in what seems to be a national confrontation. I can certainly concur with Ad when he writes that there is a lot of work to be done and we are wasting energy on this petty matter.

It cannot be clearer that the name Maylandia was not properly described, as Ingo, a person with a deep understanding of the code expresses that he does not know if the name Maylandia is valid or not!! How could that be? That certainly reflects a profound problem with that name. Mr. Meyer is certainly a brilliant person and well-informed in taxonomic matters and as it has been expressed clearly in this thread, describe taxa properly is not rocket science. It has been exposed that the code just demands (as a legal obligation) some very basic requirements to be complied and make life for all involved easier, and even so those requirements were not fulfilled, and now we are making philosophical and linguistical interpretations to try to validate it. Does that kind of neglecting and lack of compliance with very basic requirements justify the time and animosity between sides in this discussion?

I dare to express that most people here would agree that Mr. Meyer and Mr. Foerster would have had no problem in making soundly legal their name, if they clearly intended to. That would have required an infinitely less intellectual effort that what has been poured in the subsequent discussion of availability.

We should also question if Mr. Stauffer should have blindly taken as good a name that is just subjectively valid in describing further derived taxa with detail? I don’t think many here would have done that! Metriaclima was very properly described and so the new species assigned to this genus. So even if the name was discredited later there was a scientific responsibility to make the proper proposal of an alternative well sustained name. I believe that we cannot satanize or blame those that take the effort to do a good job and provide a soundly valid description, for all interested to benefit from it.
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Re: 5 New Metriaclima Species

Post by Willem Heijns » Wed May 15, 2013 10:20 am

I’m not really into Malawi cichlids but earlier discussions on nomenclatural matters have raised my interest in the International Code for Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN), hereafter referred to as the Code.
I’m a bit amazed by this ongoing debate and the personal aspects of it. As Ad already stated, all we need is to check if the text of the description complies with the Code. I’ll give it a go here.
An English summary of the paper by Meyer and Foerster (1984) would be as follows (with headings added by me):

Title:
Maylandia n.subgen. Type species: Pseudotropheus greshakei

Diagnosis 1:
The subgenus differs from Pseudotropheus williamsi, followed by a list of character(states) of williamsi.

Diagnosis 2:
Some other Pseudotropheus species look like greshakei and differ from willliamsi, followed by a list of the same characters with different states. These species are: zebra, aurora, lombardoi & livingstonii.

Discussion:
We suggest that this zebra complex should be included in Maylandia.

The question is: is this a valid nomenclatural act, making the name Maylandia available or isn’t it? Relevant articles of the Code (4th edition) are 13.1.1 (requirement of a “description or definition that states in words characters that are purported to differentiate the taxon”) and 13.3 (requirement of the “fixation of a type species in the original description”). No need to check older versions of the Code, because each new edition wholly supersedes previous ones.

It is obvious that the second requirement has been fulfilled. The Title of the paper clearly states that greshakei is the type species of Maylandia.

The first requirement has not been fulfilled. Diagnosis 1 states that he subgenus differs from williamsi but it doesn’t explicitly state what the differences are for the named characters. Diagnosis 2 qualifies as a valid diagnosis, but it does not apply to the subgenus Maylandia. Instead it applies to “some other species”. The use of the word “other” implies that different species than the ones in the subgenus in the foregoing lines are meant. There is no doubt as to which these “other species” are, because they are explicitly named: zebra, aurora, lombardoi and livingstonii. It’s also clear that greshakei is not one of those “other species”, because it is not listed with the other four (see also my earlier post in this topic on 9 May 2013).

Finally the Discussion refers to these “other species” as the zebra complex and suggests that this complex should be included in the new subgenus. Should this suggestion not be followed, the subgenus would have to do without the well diagnosed zebra complex. It would then only comprise greshakei and still be without a valid diagnosis.

One can speculate endlessly about what the authors had in mind and/or intended to achieve with this description. But in terms of the Code, this is irrelevant. It is the written text that counts.

So, what is the debate all about? Apart from all the personal stuff (which I shall ignore here), it seems that the proponents of Maylandia believe that Diagnosis 2 does apply to the subgenus Maylandia and that greshakei does belong to these “other species”. Should we take that view, the word “other” will have to be explained away from “some other species”. In addition, “some species look like greshakei” should be read as “some species, including greshakei, look like greshakei”. And finally, the suggestion of including the zebra complex in Maylandia should be understood as the zebra complex equalling the subgenus Maylandia, which would obliterate the suggestion.
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