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Tardigrade Transgression

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.

Gary Rosenberg
Academy of Natural Sciences
Drexel University

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.

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