Chlosyne ismeria...again

Ron Gatrelle gatrelle at
Fri Jan 25 06:46:41 EST 2002

Greetings all -- The below post is emphatic and authoritive and sounds
pretty good.  However, it is just mistaken and in places quite misleading.
I have been over any all of these points with various individuals many
times.  I do not feel like totally repeating every detail yet again.
Several fairly long detailed post addressing ismeria can be found in the
archives of the TILS-leps-talk list serve.  Those interested can find this
stuff there.

It is my undertstanding that Niklas has forwarded the above mentioned posts
of mine to  Dr. Pelham.  It is interesting that he does not mention one
single point of the many addressed in those posts - a number of which are
all relative to the Vol 4, 2000 code (I refer to it as the 2000 code as it
took effect 1 January 2000 - not in 1999.  Though it came off the press in
99 and can be referred to as the 99 code I guess.)

So, here we go again.  I will insert comments within the following post, I
guess.  It is quite unfair in a very real way that the vast majority of
readers here have not read my paper on ismeria nor any of the many
subsequent emails and hard copy letters addressing this and the other
situations brought up below.  These other situations mentioned by Pelham
are _all_ directly aimed solely at my research.  It is too bad that Dr.
Pehlham has chosen to never engage in any dialogue with me at all on these
points that he disagrees so strongly whit me on -- he has had plenty of
time as the ismeria paper came out in 98.  Sorry if I am too irritated by
this but after 4 years it is getting a little old.

----- Original Message -----
From: Niklas Wahlberg
To: Leps-List ; TILS-leps-talk at
Cc: JPPelham at
Sent: Friday, January 25, 2002 3:06 AM
Subject: Chlosyne ismeria...again

    A while back there was discussion about the validity of the name
Chlosyne ismeria as the correct name for Chlosyne nycteis. As I felt that
discussion did not lead to an unequivocal conclusion, I made some
enquiries. Through Andy Warren I was able to get a reply from Jonathan
Pelham (to whom all the relevant postings on the subject were forwarded),
who is a respected authority on nomenclatorial issues among other things.
Below are Jon's comments on the nomenclatorial problem of the name ismeria.
Jon would have liked to post this himself, but has been unable to sign up
onto the e-mail lists, and so I am posting it on his behalf. The posting is
long, but for those interested in nomenclatorial problems it is full of
very relevant info, read carefully! I hope the formatting comes through. If
anybody would like the message as a Word or Word Perfect document, please
contact me or Jon.


What follows is written by Jonathan Pelham:

Regarding the name "ismeria" and the designation of Neotypes.

It is imperative that I respond to the various arguments supporting the
employment of the name "ismeria" for any taxon that supplants an older,
established, name.

Ron:  First, _none_ of _my_ arguments are addressed in this post
whatsoever.  Is this because they are all on solid scientific and Code
compliant foundations and any argument against them either looses or at
best is a draw?  Second, in this first sentence we have the basic error
that I have addressed (what feels like) a hundred times.  There is
absolutely no "supplanting" of the name nycteis at all.  And to say there
is borderline slander.  The name nycteis is based upon an organism.  My
action with the name ismeria changes absolutely nothing regarding the
specific epithet nycteis and it application to the subspecies long known by
that name.

I have said repeatedly over these years that if the names ismeria and
nycteis _were_ referencing the exact same organism -- that I myself would
have sought to suppress the name ismeria myself from the get go.  If Pelham
has read my posts forwarded to him by Wahlberg, he has read me saying that
very thing and is thus well aware of this.  The name ismeria applies to a
_distinct_ subspecies of *nycteis* found only in the extreme southern part
of the US - GA, FL, to evidentially LA.  Ismeria and nycteis (along with
drusius and reversa) are all completely distinct subspecies.  This
"supplanting" = replacing argument is at the minimum a straw man and at
most a fraudulent representation of facts.

Pelham:  I understand that I am subjecting myself to the ridicule that
will, inevitably, ensue.

Ron:  But you did not first ridicule and attack me, right?

Pelham:   The use of "ismeria" has been explained in several media, but all
this commentary is inconsequential, as that name has no claim whatever.

Ron: Well that is typical of a prosecutor's methodology -- throw out the
defense's argument before it ever has a chance to reach the juries ears as
it is inconsequential.

Pelham:   I will demonstrate this according to the Code.  I will also
address  the arbitrary designation of Neotypes.

Ron:  Note here that this post suddenly broadens to an attack on several
other papers I have done -- as all the neotypes he mentions (totally with
no context of why they were designated) were designated by myself.  Sorry,
I see this more and more as just a personal attack on myself, TTR and TILS.

Pelham:     The facts are so clear and indisputable that an attempt at
moderation would obfuscate.  I apologize for any perceived intemperance
beforehand.  I ask the reader to bear with me, as the topic is not
scintillating.  It is important to curtail these illegal nomenclatural

Ron:  I agree completely with the following re the Code -- the next four
paragraphs.  Too bad Dr. Pelham does not practice what he preaches.  Rather
than examining all the related aspects of the code, he gives us virtually
no information about the research done and its exploitations and
alternatives, and then proceeds to cite only one or two completely
irrelevant points and then rests his case and recommends hanging the

Pelham:     Human beings have named and organized the organic world since
1758 (the "official" beginning of zoological nomenclature).  The practice
of naming things, and classifying them is both a scientific and legal
endeavor.  Zoologists have entrusted the regulation of names and their
application to taxa to the International Commission of Zoological
Nomenclature.  The legal document describing these regulations is the
International Code of Zoological Nomenclature (hereafter: the Code).  This
document is in its 4th avatar, published in 1999.  Most zoologists are
satisfied with the result.

The Code provides a way to stabilize and make common the use of zoological
names; every name may be referenced in a manner understood by all.  To
disregard any of these rules is anarchistic, and certainly not in keeping
with the "Rule of Law" that should prevail in a free society.  Below I
detail the specific violations of the Code with respect to the issues at
hand.  Reading the Code is not a fascinating pastime.  However, It should
be required reading in light of the recent violations.

In the many decades since 1758 there have been names given to organisms
that were not recognizable as any species known.  Some of these names
remain unidentifiable.  These names are called nomina dubia (doubtful
names) by the Code.  Naturally, zoologists have continued to name and
classify organisms.  On occasion, there is an attempt to apply one of these
doubtful names to an actual organism.  If that organism has not yet been
named, there is no problem.  If that organism has received a name, and it
is widely known under that name, it would be confusing to change it
suddenly.  Such situations were anticipated by the creators of the Code,
and are to this day.  It was clear that the application of a name, long
unrecognizable, to replace the name of an organism widely known by another
name is a threat to the stability of zoological nomenclature.  Every
manifestation of the Code attempts to preempt the use of these names.  It
is so important that it is stated in the Preamble.  The attempt to apply
the name "ismeria" to the species long known as Chlosyne nycteis is a
classic example of behavior proscribed by the Code.

The facts are clear and indisputable.  The Preamble to the Code should be
viewed in the same light as the Preamble to the Constitution of the United
States.  It is a sober statement concerning the reason and application of
the Code.  It is often ignored, but is clear and concise.  I quote
paragraphs two and three read below (emphasis mine):

"The objects of the Code are to promote stability and universality in the
scientific names of animals and to ensure that the name of each taxon is
unique and distinct.  All its provisions and recommendations are
subservient to those ends and none restricts the freedom of taxonomic
thought or actions."
"Priority of publication is a basic principle of zoological nomenclature;
however, under conditions prescribed in the Code its application may be
modified to conserve a long accepted name in its accustomed meaning.

Ron:  Stop right here. Note it says that the Principle of Priority _may_ be
modified.  The Code places very narrow limits on how this most basic of all
Code Principles may be overturned.  The conditions that would modify the
code relative to the use of ismeria to the southern subspecies are _not_
met.  The relative information is in  Article 23.9.1,,,
23.9.5 and 23.9.6.  Anyone who has the slightest familiarity with the Code
knows that it is a fabric of references and cross references. Here the tiny
part Pelham mentions _refers_ or _directs_ one to another section.  In
other words this is a qualified statement the application of which is
delineated within the Code proper.  Just like the generalized Preamble of
the US Constitution is given understanding and directs us how to understand
it in the body of the articles and amendments.

Pelham:     When stability of nomenclature is threatened in an individual
case, the strict application of the Code may under specified conditions be
suspended by the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature."

It is clear that the application of the name "ismeria" in the present case
violates the object of the Code, as stated in the Preamble.  Priority, is
subservient to stability.  This is beyond dispute.

Ron:  This is false.  First of all he has not told us at all how the name
ismeria is applied  - other than to lead the reader to the false conclusion
that ismeria is a replacement name for nycteis.  This statement is false
again as it tries to establish something in the Code that is not there - a
Principle of Usage.  Some would like there to be this trump principle in
the Code but it is not there.  The articles I referred to above clearly
state that Priority (oldest name) rules over usage FIRST.  THEN usage is
given the opportunity prevail over age IF it can met a number of
requirements.  Which, in this specific case usage does not.  I have
explained this in detail a thousand times and do not feel like wasting my
time on it again here.

What Pelham does not address at all is that there exists 1) a subspecies in
GA  2) there is already an available name in the nomenclature for this
subspecies - that name is ismeria, and 3) according to the Code this name
is also the valid name of this subspecies and 4) because of this name's
availability, validity, and long usage in the literature we are not free to
just blow it off and describe it as a "new" subspecies!!.  Remember the
"rule of law"?

Pelham:     The second case generates from the creation of a neotype for
"ismeria." and neotypes in general.  Article 75 deals with the creation of
neotypes. 75.2 reads (emphasis mine):
"A neotype is not to be designated as an end in itself, or as a matter of
curatorial routine, and any such neotype designation is invalid."
The example given:
"If an author designates a neotype fro Xus albus Smith, a species about
whose identity there is no doubt and which is not involved in any complex
zoological problem at the time at which it was designated, the purported
"neotype" has no name-bearing status."

Ron:  There is obviously a great deal of historical doubt and debate about
this name.  If there were not we would not even be having this argument.
This neotype (in the Allyn Museum) is _necessary_ for two very good
reasons.  First, it established the organic identity of long debated
name/organic relationship and second, fixes this only recently recognized
subspecific organism to a proper and unambiguous nomenclature via a type.
If ever a neotype was called for this is it.

Pelham:     Thus the designation of "neotypes" for such taxa as Papilio
troilus, Asterocampa celtis, A. clyton and Neonympha areolata among others
is invalid.

Ron:  See. Where the heck did this come from.  These are all my doings.
This looks like someone who has an ax to grind or a bur under his saddle.
This is laughable.  In each of these situaltions it is absolutely necessaty
to affix types and type localities to insure _ stability_ of these names.
With celtis we now know that it and reinthali are sympatric at the type
celtis type locality and that everything points to them as species not
subspecies.  Everyone should be thankful I fixed the name celtis to the
tradition northern species as it is highly possible that what Abbot
actually had in hand was the southern species reinthali !.  Clyton is on
the edge of the range of florida.  Troilus and ilioneus are the same thing
and other possible confusing situations are now eliminated - including the
already raised possibility that the far northern populations are actually a
different subspecies from nominate troilus.  Two species of Neonympha are
now known to exist perhaps sympatrically (at one spot within yards of each
other) in the GA area where Abbot found both species that the names  -
areolata and helicta are now stabalized by neotypification.

Pelham:     Article 75.3 reads (emphasis mine) :
"A neotype is validly designated when there is an exceptional need and only
when that need is stated expressly and when the designation is published
with the following particulars:..."

Ron:  That is what I did.  Where subspecies are involved and questionable
sibling species neotypes settle the arguments and stabilize the
nomenclature.  That is just what I have done.  Oh, my neotype of liparops
was missed.  Perhaps not as I quoted Harry Clench in my paper as saying one
was called for and needed.  And Harry was right esp. to delineate it from
liparops floridensis - a subspecies James Scott fully supports as he was
going to describe it till he found out I already had.

Pelham:     The subsequent list of particulars (many of which are not met)
for any employment of ismeria cannot demonstrate an exceptional need to
overthrow the traditional and historical employment of nycteis.

Ron: Sigh.  It is not overthrown.  The new combination is C. ismeria
ismeria and C. ismeria nycteis -- nycteis is still nycteis - ismeria,
nycteis, reversa and drusius are all still "Silvery Checkerspot".  Plus, as
I have told Don Lafontaine and many others, the example of 23.9.2 may allow
for a combination of C. nycteis nycteis and C. nycteis ismeria - and I say
again I have no problem with this either.  However, one will have to file
with the commission the put this is place as nycteis fails to meet the
"usage" required to replace the priority of ismeria at the species level
pre articles cited above - and the "may" of the preamble.

Pelham:     Article 75.5 reads (emphasis mine):
"When an author considers that the taxonomic identity of a nominal
species-group taxon cannot be determined from its existing name-bearing
type (i.e. its name is a nomen dubium), and stability or universality are
threatened thereby, the author may request the Commission to set aside
under its plenary power [Article 81] the existing name-bearing type and
designate a neotype."

Ron: This has absolutely nothing to do with this situation. Plus, every
time I get into this, the exact same thing is always just ignored -
*ismeria is an unique subspecific organism all in its own right*  Do they
want to make it not exist?  If I had described this as a new subspecies and
given it a new name in 98 I bet I would have been criticized for that and
told that I was in violation of the Code as I was ignoring a name that was
already available (ismeria) and that it should have been used rather than
trying to put me forth as finding something new.  Why should I not feel
like I am in a damned if I do and damned if I don't situation with certain

Pelham:     In fact the application of the name "ismeria", a nomen dubium
until its "purported" recognition, exactly threatens stability,
contravening the Code at every turn.  The author creates instability by
designating a neotype, and there is no attempt to approach the Commission
at all!

Ron: The person who did the most research on this was the late IF. Martin
Brown. I quoted him extensively in my paper.  He did not say ismeria was a
nomen dubium (dead name)  he said it was most likely either a harrisi or a
nycteis and that until actual specimens were found to answer this thereby
he held it as a nomen incognitum (uncertain) - which left it still on the
table.  ismeria has been used and continues to be used in the popular lit
up to today - it is not something no one has never heard of or a name never
used in modern times.  It has most often been wrongly taken as a rare
subspecies of gorgone - something Brown showed to be a daisy chain error
and not possible. (which is one of the reasons I also designated a neotype
of gorgone gorgone as it and ismeria have the same type locality - which
established once and for all that ismeria was not a gorgone per Brown's
researched conclusion.)

Pelham:     It is obvious that the designation of a neotype for "ismeria"
creates instability and therefore directly violates the Preamble as well as
the intent and particulars of Article 75.  It is therefore not valid.
This, too, is indisputable.

Ron:  No. It properly defines a subspecies.  It does not sit well with the
NABA scientific names committee as they were the first ones to give me a
hard time on this - thus my exchanges with Lafontaine as their rep.  My
understanding is that he came to agree with me that I was technically
correct.  I hate to drag him into this but perhaps I misundetstood him.  I
do know he said that certain parties tried to get him to chalenge my
research and he declined.

Pelham:     There can be no question as to the application of the name

Ron:  Correct. There is no question - by the Code. It is the available and
valid name of the subspecies which is admitted to actually exist in the
next couple of lines below.  Why should it be given a new name?  Because a
few Big Names simply object?  It messes up their books?   If the "other
side" (mentioned below) really knew anything about the Code and this
situation they would already know that _no_ new name is needed and that per
Article 23 a petition can simply be made for a combination of C. nycteis

Pelham:     The question is "Will the person responsible take the necessary
steps to rectify the situation?"  Otherwise, the "other side" will, of
necessity, take those steps, and apply a new name to the taxon described as
ismeria.  This would be an embarrassment and is not necessary.  I think it
fair that the author be given the opportunity to remedy the situation with
regard to "ismeria" and trust that he will.  As for the unnecessary
"neotypes", they may be disregarded without further action.

Ron:  No more comment.

Thank you for your patience,

Jonathan P. Pelham
Burke Museum
University of Washington
Box 353010
Seattle, WA 98195
e-mail: JPPelham at

Niklas Wahlberg
Department of Zoology
Stockholm University
S-106 91 Stockholm

Phone: +46 8 164047
Fax:   +46 8 167715 -------------------------------
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