• Stability in Lepidoptera names is not served by reversal to gender agreement: a response to Wiemers et al. (2018)

      van Nieukerken, EJ; Karsholt, O; Hausmann, A; Holloway, JD; Huemer, P; Kitching, IJ; Nuss, M; Pohl, GR; Rajaei, H; Rennwald, E; et al. (Pensoft Publishers, 2019-06-26)
      In a recent paper in ZooKeys, Wiemers et al. (2018) provided an updated list of European butterfly names. In this list the authors follow gender agreement for species names, when interpreted as adjectival in derivation, in contrast to the common practice among most lepidopterists. Here we comment on this aspect of the paper, and voice our concern that this reversal does not benefit the stability of Lepidoptera names and is, indeed, inimical to their stability. Modern zoological science needs the communities of taxonomists and users to agree on the names that are used to communicate information about the taxa we study and cherish. In this age, such collegiate acceptance is more important than ever, given that the number of users of scientific names has increased enormously. Agreement is particularly important when considering the numerous online databases, observation sites, Wikipedia, etc. Several global and local initiatives over the last several decades have begun to compile authoritative lists of taxonomic names to serve the community and build towards a greater stability, including Species 2000 / Catalogue of Life (Roskov et al. 2018; Roskov et al. 2019), Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF Secretariat 2019) and Fauna Europaea (de Jong et al. 2014; Fauna Europaea 2017). Unfortunately, the current (and likely future) funding situation for most of these projects is poor, to say the least, and populating these databases relies heavily on a diminishing number of taxonomists, who rarely receive recognition for their work. The Fauna Europaea database, which is of special importance as Europe’s main zoological taxonomic index, has suffered particularly, being an EU-supported project that was only funded by the European Commission between 2000 and 2004. Subsequently, updating was carried out at the Zoological Museum of Amsterdam (de Jong et al. 2014), first under the umbrella of the PESI project (PESI 2011; de Jong et al. 2015), then later without funding, until the Amsterdam museum was merged with Naturalis Biodiversity Center in Leiden in 2011. Since then, the Fauna Europaea database has been run by the Museum für Naturkunde, Leibniz-Institute for Research on Evolution and Biodiversity, Berlin, Germany. Recently, however, updating has come to a stand-still, very much to the frustration both of taxonomists who wish to update their lists and of users who need an up-to-date and authoritative nomenclature. Given these circumstances, we enthusiastically applaud the initiative that several specialists of European butterflies have taken separately to publish an update for butterflies (superfamily Papilionoidea) in an open access journal, to produce a new list for the use of the scientific community (Wiemers et al. 2018).