neglectamajor and major neglect

Michael Gochfeld gochfeld at
Tue Nov 12 12:21:37 EST 2002

Excuse the unfortunate play on words. 

As one author who accepted C. neglectamajor based on the work of Harry
Pavulaan and David Wright as well as the Opler & Krizek book, and as one
who is not a Lycaenid taxonomist (but isn't afraid of making systematic
judgements), I think I will argue (today at least) that we have to be
patient with publications particularly books.  We have had so many
discussions on this list about systematics, taxonomy, and nomenclature
(overlapping but distinct practices), that it is important to realize
that publications (both in journals and books) are problematic.
Reviewers and editors wield as much or more power than authors.

In the case of our BUTTERFLIES OF NEW JERSEY, one of the reviewers
suggested that we be conservative and omit any reference to the taxa
that Pavulaan and Wright were proposing (neglectamajor was already in). 
Another reviewer was neutral. The scientific editor at Rutgers Press
required that we deal with each reviewer objection. 

 We agonized for months, and it is entirely possible that depending on
diet and glycemia the night the decision was made, it might have gone
the other way. Finally, Joanna and I elected to include these newly
emphasized taxa (some had been recognized before, e.g. by Edwards a
century earlier). These taxa included Celastrina violacea [Edwards
Azure] and three Celastrina spp [Northern, Cherry Gall, and Pine
Barrens] in a box spanning three pages.  We specifically avoided using
scientific names the Pavulaan and Wright were suggesting but had not yet
published so that WE wouldn't be the first publication. 

We figured that if the book has a ten year useful lifespan (Comstock's
list had to suffice for New Jersey for nearly 50 years), that there was
a good chance that the taxa would be widely accepted.  Many members of
the NABA North Jersey chapter have enthusiastically adopted these taxa
in their field investigations, although trying to sort out and identify
records has been challenging. 

The same thing is true of journal articles (I have already mentioned an
editor INCORRECTLY lumping a species of Petrel) in one of our papers. 
Unless the paper is primarily systematic (and perhaps even then),
reviewers can impose their own perceptions of a species on ecologic or
behavior papers, requiring the authors to justify (or abandon) their
choice treatment. 


Harry Pavulaan wrote:
> Ken, all:
> While a taxon may have a different (true) standing in nature from its'
> described (OD) standing, I shy away from unpublished information, as
> accurate and obvious as it may be.  The evidence may be overwhelming
> ("common knowledge") but this evidence, unless presented in a formalized
> manner (journal paper) via some sort of review process, could be in error.
> Thus, by having the evidence published, it can be examined and revised if it
> is found to be in error.
> In this respect, I completely understand why Jeff Glassberg would ignore
> unpublished information.  Jeff and I differ in that he has imposed himself
> as reviser and rejected some published information (i.e. Celastrina idella
> as a species), whereas I would accept without judgement or reinterpretation
> whatever was most recently published.  Some have even taken issue to this
> and have taken me to task over why I am accepting more-recently published
> information than their own.
> Dave Wright and I ran into this situation with Celastrina neglectamajor.
> Historical treatment in literature indicated that authors were horribly
> confused over its status and what another author was referring to (under the
> name neglectamajor or various other names under which it was referred to).
> Opler & Krizek were the first authors to treat it as a full species in a
> book, but controversy continued.  While it was becoming "common knowledge"
> that neglectamajor was a full species, there were those who disputed it.  In
> the meantime, Wright and I had been studying it from scratch, then
> cross-referenced our information to the historical literature, and came up
> with the definitive paper.  It is hoped that future authors will now use our
> paper to justify treating neglectamajor as a species, and those who still
> dispute it should fully explain why our years of research was for naught.
> Harry Pavulaan
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