[Leps-l] Monarch subspecies (was: Finally Announced...)

Douglas Yanega dyanega at gmail.com
Fri May 27 12:42:58 EDT 2022

Just an FYI from an ICZN Commissioner:

The ICZN regulates names from superfamily down to subspecies, but:

(1) any names proposed or used below subspecies are unregulated - 
meaning a presently-recognized variety, form, or other infrasubspecific 
entity is *nomenclaturally unavailable* - technically, it has neither an 
authorship, nor a date, and is not subject to the rules of priority. 
Names proposed for "forms" or "varieties" published before 1960 can 
*sometimes* be available, but only under very specific circumstances. 
So, for the monarch, "form nivosus" should never be given with an 
authorship or date, *or italicized*, as it is not actually a 
species-rank name, and under the Code only species-rank (species and 
subspecies) and genus-rank (genus and subgenus) names are ever italicized.

(2) the Code does not provide a *biological* definition of the various 
ranks, even though it does limit the ranks it governs. A species, or a 
subspecies, is whatever a taxonomist says it is, and all the Code 
defines is whether that entity's name has been properly published, and 
how it is to be treated once it has been published (spelling, 
authorship, date, etc.).

That being said, in my experience the most common use of subspecies in 
taxonomy is for populations that are allopatric/allochronic, with 
characters that reliably distinguish them, but for which the presumption 
is that were they to ever secondarily come into contact, they would 
produce fully fertile offspring. If there is routine gene flow between 
two populations, or no characters distinguishing them, they would not 
generally conform to this definition. In that respect, the question 
regarding monarchs would be whether a person could be given a monarch 
specimen with no collection data, and still tell definitively (by DNA or 
some other technique) which population it belonged to? If the answer is 
yes, then how many distinct populations can be identified? That would 
give the upper limit on assignable subspecies.


Doug Yanega      Dept. of Entomology       Entomology Research Museum
Univ. of California, Riverside, CA 92521-0314     skype: dyanega
phone: (951) 827-4315 (disclaimer: opinions are mine, not UCR's)
   "There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness
         is the true method" - Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chap. 82
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