[tdwg-content] Name is species concept thinking

Peter DeVries pete.devries at gmail.com
Fri Jun 11 01:33:36 CEST 2010

Richard and Jerry are getting at something that we need to think about.

There will be differences in what people think is an ideal species concept

Depending on the needs of different groups they may need some different

I recognize the utility in documenting the different conceptualizations over

There are however a lot of people who are more interested in these kinds of

<SnowShoeHare> <preyItemOf> <NorthAmericanLynx>

<Ochlerotatus_triseriatus> <documentedVectorOf> <LaCrosseEncephalitis>

A number of the records that have been submitted to GBIF etc are from groups
that are primarily thinking about species concepts in this way.

In fact traditional taxonomy does not have much information that helps
separate those individuals that can be vectors or pathogens and those that

For these kinds of users it might be more useful to have an open machine
interpretable document that can be used to determine the criteria for what
species concepts are good matches for a specimen and what species concepts
are not good matches.

In this sense it is a way to agree on what are the characteristics (and the
variability in those characteristics) that assign specimen x most closely
with species concept Y.

I think that the species concepts that you describe in GNUB will allow you
to capture the variations in conscriptions you are talking about.

I also think that the general things that Dima and I are working through
will also help either directly though the TaxonConcept concepts or figuring
out the best way to get the GNUB concepts working as you describe in a
triplestore. I think they maybe thinking that the TaxonConcept concepts
might help them determine how best to RDF the GNUB concepts if they will be

What proportion of currently described taxa have these types of overlapping
conscriptions?  I know of several insects like this, but what about mammals
like the Cougar?

I hope that people are willing to accept that there maybe different types of
species concepts depending on how they are intended to be used.

We may not be able to agree on what a species is but I think we might be
able get to the point where it is clearer when we state that identifer X
means instances with these somewhat variable set of characteristics.

Frankly I think it would be an improvement if we could get maps etc that
combine Aedes triseriatus / Ochlerotatus triseriatus into one map and Felis
concolor and Puma concolor into a different single map. :-)


- Pete

On Thu, Jun 10, 2010 at 5:15 PM, Richard Pyle <deepreef at bishopmuseum.org>wrote:

> Warning to Tim:  Go get your cup of tea before reading....
> Hi Jerry,
> I believe what you describe:
> > I think we do need an  agreed way for identifying a 'set of
> > name/article pointers' that define a useful grouping (which I
> > would hesitate to call a concept). I don't think an
> > open-ended linked data chain does provide that defined grouping.
> ...is already built into the GNUB data model.
> Starting with a particular TaxonNameUsageID instance, we can directly get a
> set of Protonyms that are asserted in the Usage to be included within the
> taxon.  From these Protonyms, we can explode out as far as you want to go.
> The limitation, however, is that GNUB only includes the explict facts, not
> the interpreted meanings.  In other words, we may know that Smith 1955
> regarded Aus cus, Aus dus, and Aus eus as synonyms of Aus bus; but if he
> never mentioned Aus xus (either as another synonym, or as a distinct
> species) we can't know whether his circumscription of Aus bus would have
> included the type and implied other members of Aus xus.  So, the facts
> alone
> don't cut it.
> So if Smith treated Aus bus as follows (synonym indended below asserted
> valid name):
> Aus bus L.
>  - Aus bus L.
>  - Aus cus Jones
>  - Aus dus Brown
>  - Aus eus Lamarck
> And Pyle treated Aus bus as
> Aus bus L.
>  - Aus bus L.
>  - Aus cus Jones
>  - Aus dus Brown
>  - Aus eus Lamarck
>  - Aus xus Cooper
> [without any mention of Smith's treatment of Aus bus]
> ...then we need a third party to assert whether or not "Aus bus sec. Smith"
> and "Aus bus sec. Pyle" are congruent.
> With our new GNUB data model, we *could* represent these third-party
> assertions; but my gut feeling is that the third-party assertions should be
> external to the core GNUB model.  But this is, of course, open for
> discussion.
> > Pete's point about the two different name/article
> > intersections referring to the same 'concept' is resolved by
> > the fact they are based on the same type, and that issue I
> > prefer to see resolved at the nomenclatural level by
> > protologue & type-collection pointers (as in the GNUB model).
> Types don't do it for us.  Using my example above, suppose we have DeVries'
> treatment of the Aus bus complex as follows.
> Aus bus L.
>  - Aus bus L.
>  - Aus cus Jones
>  - Aus dus Brown
> Aus eus Lamarck
>  - Aus xus Cooper
> That is, he treated Aus bus and Aus eus as valid species, and included Aus
> xus as a synonym of the latter.
> In all three treatements of Aus bus (Smith, Pyle, DeVries), the name "Aus
> bus" shares the same type -- but that doesn't mean that all three had the
> same taxon concept (circumscription).
> So, in my mind, the real question is:
> Do we need a separate "taxonConceptID" (as in the TDWG version of DwC) that
> we can use to brand the abstract Concept?  Or are we able to assemble the
> same results from individual usage-instance mappings?
> So, let's say that we are confident that Smith and Pyle both had the same
> idea for the taxon concept/circumscription of Aus bus (it's just that Smith
> forgot to list Aus xus in his synonymy).  Do we need a single
> taxonConceptID
> to express the fact that they are the same taxon concept?  Or can we derive
> that easily enough from a third-party assertion of the congruency of the
> concepts represented by the two usage-instances?  Presumably we would also
> have separate taxonConceptID's for "Aus bus sec. DeVries", and for "Aus eus
> sec. DeVries".
> > I think it would help if we took a step back from using the
> > term 'taxon concept' and agreed on what we are trying to
> > achieve by linking/grouping the various constructs, and then
> > arrive at a more precisely defined vocabulary for
> > name/article intersections, and the open-ended universe of
> > related stuff.
> > I suspect we will find that different end-user groups (e.g.
> > hard core nomenclaturalists, nomenclaturally savvy
> > taxonomists, most taxonomists, and the most important group
> > ... non taxonomic savvy end-users of taxonomic services) all
> > have differing and overlapping requirements, and a different
> > understanding of the words being used.
> > Despite my peripheral involvement in taxon concept space for
> > many years I suspect the above comments reflect a deep seated
> > blinkered view that stops me seeing how it should work given
> > the existing vocabulary!
> ME TOO! :-)
> Rich

Pete DeVries
Department of Entomology
University of Wisconsin - Madison
445 Russell Laboratories
1630 Linden Drive
Madison, WI 53706
GeoSpecies Knowledge Base
About the GeoSpecies Knowledge Base
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