Cicada Mania shared info about a recent paper (https://mapress.com/zt/article/view/zootaxa.5318.3.2) that seems to imply that Megatibicen auletes (the northeastern dusk singing cicada) and Diceroprocta grossa (a species that seems to have hardly any info) are the same species and will both be combined into a species called Megatibicen grossa. I don’t have access to the actual paper thanks to it being behind a paywall/account, so I don’t know if the paper is definitive proof that the species will change or not. But it seems Cicada Mania does have access and their article seems to imply the paper says the latter species was never actually a different species at all.
I’m not at all familiar with how people even classify and update species, so I’m unsure why the paper’s author is saying to merge both species into a new one. Were both species one single species originally before splitting? If that’s the case, then maybe it makes sense. But if they were always split, why not merge the second species into the first one and keep the name of the first? And if they do merge into a new species, will people have to give it a new common name by dropping the northeastern part of northeastern dusk singing cicada, assuming the two species are in radically different areas of the Americas?
Maybe this paper is just the first of many before any actual taxonomic changes occur officially. Usually iNaturalist waits until most everyone else agrees, so this is definitely not a request for species changes. I’m just curious if anybody is familiar with how this sort of taxonomic updating works and if it takes multiple papers and people before it’s approved by the various species databases. I’m no scientist, so this is just an outsider wondering what will happen to one of their favorite animals. Hope this isn’t the wrong category lol.
It’s difficult to answer this question because in cases like these, when one says “X is a species”, one has to be clear whether one is referring to the scientific name “X” (which is nomenclature) or to the group of organisms that we label with the name “X” (defining which is taxonomy).
A scientific name is (to a first approximation) always associated with a specimen called the type specimen; if that name is to be used for a group of organisms, the type must be included in the group. Apparently Sanborn has examined the type of Diceroprocta grossa and found that it is (in his taxonomic judgment) identical to what we have been calling Megatibicen auletes. Since D. grossa was published first, if one takes the types of both D. grossa and M. auletes to be the same species, a member of Megatibicen, it has to take the older name, grossa (the principle of priority).
D. grossa is supposedly native to the Guyana Shield, more or less; without reading the paper I don’t know if that’s correct (meaning that the species is present in both North and South America) or if the name D. grossa has been misapplied to the South American cicadas (that is, they are not the same thing as the type of D. grossa, but were called that by mistake).
Whether others accept this is mostly a question of whether they accept Sanborn’s judgment in saying that the types of the two names are the same thing. I have no great familiarity with cicada taxonomy, but Sanborn seems eminent in the field, so I suspect it is likely.
I don’t know about cicadas specifically, but we sadly don’t have one definitive database for insects. Usually one paper is enough for the community to accept changes, at the very least because there is so much invertebrate taxonomic work to do and so few people doing the work. Having duplicate papers for confirmation generally isn’t practical.
Seems a case of the oldest species name gets priority (grossa is 1775 versus 1834 for auletes) but the genus name is malleable given taxonomic revisions since the original genus was named that have clarified or corrected the evolutionary placement. so Megatibicen is the correct clade so the newer genus name is attached to the oldest valid species name that can be attached to an existing type series.
It’s not unusual in taxa that haven’t been extensively studied for there to be two or more names that have been applied in the past to the same species. Eventually it gets worked out and the oldest name prevails whereas the more recent names become junior synonyms but are still available if the species gets split up in the future.
Looking at the abstract it seems that these two species were determined to actually be only one based on examining the type specimens and deciding that they should never have been called separate species in the first place. They don’t say anything about genetic data or any data except looking at the specimens. This kind of thing is actually quite common. Very frequently the same species has been described and named by numerous different groups who weren’t aware of each other’s work or didn’t have access to all the type specimens for comparison. That is one of many reasons why taxonomic revisions happen at such a high rate.
It’s actually rather remarkable there aren’t more cases from the past of the same species being separately described with different names by different taxonomists, using different type material from different locations, without knowing what the other was doing. Consider that prior to modern communications, getting access to the literature and reaching out to fellow researchers was not easy. Maybe this “overlap” of efforts was common in some taxonomic groups. I know some of the species I focus on have a number of junior synonyms, indicating that was likely the case, or the organism in question exhibited a lot of variability that was interpreted as different species (e.g., the many scientific names for the Grizzly Bear).
Species synonyms are incredibly common. I’ve come across both plants and animals with dozens of synonyms because they were described dozens of times. Look up a species on https://powo.science.kew.org or https://www.marinespecies.org/ and there is a good chance it will have multiple synonyms. Some of these will be homotypic synonyms (based on the same type specimen but different taxonomy) but heterotypic synonyms (based on a different type specimen) are also quite common.
Even Linnaeus sometimes gave binomials to species that already had them. A correspondent of his, Morten Thrane Brünnich, named the German Cockroach Blatta transfuga in 1763 and then Linnaeus turned around and named it Blattella germanica in 1767. It has accumulated at least a dozen additional names since then, most described from different specimens https://www.gbif.org/species/1997215
The comment about the range is interesting, Megatibicen auletes, and all Megatibicen for that matter, reach their southern range limit much farther north than the Guyana Shield. However, the range of actual Diceroprocta may include that area.