LETTERS TO THE EDITORS
To the Editors:
William R. Miller’s article “Tardigrades” (September–October) conveys the excitement of discovery that Miller uses to engage his students in systematic biology. The article also teaches an unintended lesson: Don’t publish a taxonomic name prior to its formal description. Miller refers to a manuscript describing the new genus Multipseudechiniscus as being “under review at a peer-reviewed journal,” but the American Scientist article itself contains all the information needed to make the name available under the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN). The article has a statement of characters differentiating the taxon, it states that the taxon is new, and it contains a fixation of the type species. This means the paper under review has been preempted; it is no longer the description of a new taxon, but a redescription providing additional details. Fortunately, American Scientist turns out not to be the original description of the name: Miller did the same thing earlier in 2011, in an abstract published in Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Sciences.
Academy of Natural Sciences
Dr. Miller responds:
Gary Rosenberg is correct. I have learned an important lesson in systematic biology, which I have also conveyed to my students. Ignorance is not an excuse, but it is part of the explanation; I have always understood that an abstract—especially an abstract of a poster—was not a publication. But the ICZN is clear that if the abstract is published in a form that can be referenced and cited, then it counts. I immediately contacted the editor of the reviewing journal about the situation. My coauthor Ms. Schulte and I will adjust the manuscript to reflect the prior use and correct history of the name. I thank Dr. Rosenberg for reading my article and for his contribution to my understanding of the process of describing new organisms.
Editors’ note: The editors, too, overlooked this lapse in nomenclatural procedure. We regret any complications that the American Scientist article may cause for the publication of the genus name in a peer-reviewed journal.