iNat’s taxonomic authority for plants is Plants of the World Online, and we try to minimize deviations from it without good reason. POWO has a concept of an “unplaced name”, one that doesn’t fit within its hierarchy. There are several possible causes, some of which relate to problems with type material, but the one I’d like to focus on is where POWO says “no correct name is available in an accepted genus”.
The context in which this arose is the Asparagaceae species Loncomelos koprulense, described in 2021 based on a single population in southern Turkey. POWO regards Loncomelos koprulense as a valid species description, but takes the view that the genus Loncomelos is a synonym for Ornithogalum. I’m not sure why POWO regards this as a synonym, as they reference only Rafaël Govaerts’s 2011 “World checklist of selected plant families”.
However, as the authors placed the new species into Loncomelos and no-one has transferred it to Ornithogalum, POWO cannot make that transfer. So it’s listed in POWO as an accepted but unplaced species.
Moving over to iNat, we don’t have a taxon entry for this new species under either genus, but we do appear to have at least one observation of this species. Accordingly, I would like to add a taxon that can be used to assign an ID. What’s the best way to approach this?
- Add a taxon for Loncomelos koprulense, within Ornithogalum section Berylis, and ignore the mismatch in genus names (maybe note this mismatch in the taxon comments).
- Add the taxon as Ornithogalum koprulense. This seems BAD. No-one has actually published that name, and I’m not even sure the Latin agreement is grammatical.
- Don’t add the taxon until someone publishes an article transferring the species into Ornithogalum. Possibly this won’t happen until a botanist performs a substantial revision of these genera, so we could be waiting many years.
- Something else.
Thanks in advance for any guidance!
I’m not sure, but I think the site follows your first suggestion with some of the fungal groups.
Thanks @psweet! I decided that it was worthwhile to go ahead with Option 1 and created a new taxon for Loncomelos koprulense. If we get a consensus that a different approach would be better, I can always submit a taxon change or deletion.
For what it’s worth, I believe Ornithogalum koprulense works Latin-wise as far as the grammar concern.
Unfortunately, POWO and other aggregators often take checklists as taxonomic authority sources when they are often not designed to be. (“Sometimes a checklist is just a checklist.”) In point of fact a “pure” checklist with names and no other information is sometimes a place where a taxonomic decision of sorts is attempted, but of course ends up as a nomen nudum because… it’s just a name on a checklist without further information (e.g. the first use of Osmundopteris as a generic epithet). I am new-ish to taxonomy per se, there is probably some nuance that I’m missing, but it seems that checklists are sometimes inappropriately pointed to as taxonomically authoritative when by their nature they are simply picking and choosing from among existing taxonomic treatments in the primary literature – they can reflect the preferences of regional authorities of course, but whether that’s true comes down to who the authors actually are and what scientific or political aim they’re trying to highlight. (Pardon the long screed.)
I would agree that the first approach is probably most appropriate. There are plenty of existing taxa that don’t have a preferred combination yet published, especially due to external sources’ differences from authors’ use of taxonomy (POWO errs much on the side of lumping taxa).
A follow-up question might be: can there be some sort of note placed with the taxon page that says something about the comb. ined. situation? “This species has not yet been assigned to [its putative genus] in a publication”? Somewhere outside of the Curation: Flags area would be helpful for the average user – it’s an inconspicuous section that I didn’t know about until a few months ago – at least if the generic mismatch is likely to cause confusion.
That’s rarely a serious concern for binomials. They draw from a variety of languages (obviously Greek and Latin primarily, but far from exclusively), and composite them in odd ways at times.
In this case, the generic name “Loncomelos” is based on the Greek noun “melos” (μέλος), which is neuter, so an adjectival specific epithet should also be neuter, making the “-ense” ending appropriate. (Greek neuter roots like loma (λωμα), fringe or border, sometimes generate generic names that look superficially like Latin feminine nouns but are not.)
There are also specific epithets formed as nouns in apposition, but I haven’t had enough coffee yet today to deal with that.
I think that both creating a temporary new combination (as Ornithogalum koprulense) or making the site taxonomy to allow a binomial be placed under a different genus could be two relatively good solutions.
Temporary binomials could be justified just to align with the taxonomic backbone in the absence of the right combination.
By the way, recent works suggest that it would be better to keep Ornithogalum and Loncomelos separated.
This came up during the Clidemia Miconia lumping. There was one Clidemia species which had never had a Miconia name published, so it was unplaced in POWO. But Clidemia is now a dead genus and we needed to empty it out to merge it into Miconia. So we took the Clidemia name and grafted it to Miconia. I think it’s still there…
It seemed like the best solution at the time. Here’s the name: https://www.inaturalist.org/taxa/1339014-Clidemia-minutiflora
Leave an open flag on it as it needs to be fixed in the future
I don’t think that we should create new combinations which have never been published as it’s greatly confusing. I’d advocate for grafting the unplaced name to the genus where it’s supposed to be but NOT creating a new combintation.
I’m not disagreeing that there is a ‘correct’ grammar, I’m just pointing out that with binomials it’s often pretty loose.
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